Death Wish 2

Director - Michael Winner

Cast - Charles Bronson, Jill Ireland

Country of Origin - USA

Discs - 1

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Distributor - MGM/20th Century Fox

Reviewer - Scott MacDonald

The Film (3.5/5)

   Charles Bronson had already made a name for himself by the time 1974's Death Wish put him on the map.  He had been primarily a character actor known for roles in the Dirty Dozen, and the villainous Harmonica in the Sergio Leone epic Once Upon a Time in the West, however, Death Wish was a game changer in his career. He went from being a character actor to being an action star almost overnight, even though Death Wish was his landmark film he did not dare touch the role of Paul Kersey for 8 years after the original. He finally came back to the role with 1982's Death Wish 2, which would also be his first collaboration with 80's action powerhouse studio Cannon Films.

   Death Wish 2 opens with a news broadcast detailing the rise in crime in the Los Angeles metro area. As it turns out in the 2 years (storywise) since the original Death Wish Paul Kersey has upped, and moved to the City of Angels with his daughter Carol. Carol having been traumatized by the events of the first film is now mute, and resides in a mental home receiving treatment.  The events of the film transpire around an outing that Kersey takes Carol, and his new girlfriend Geri (Jill Ireland, Bronson's actual wife). While on that outing Kersey's wallet is stolen being the vigilante that he is, he chases down the thieves, but they end up getting away with the wallet. 

   The gang of thieves angered by Kersey's attack take his address from his driver's license, and raid his house, brutally raping his maid, and kidnapping his daughter in the process. While captured by the gang, Carol attempts to escape, and ends up killing herself rather than allow them the gang to rape her. Upon hearing of his daughter's demise Kersey picks up his vigilante ways to take down the gang, and the scum of L.A.

   Death Wish 2 abides by the rules of sequel-dom by upping the ante in every way possible. Death Wish 2 is a sleazier, more action packed, and violent film than it's predecessor.  It also happens to lack any sort of thematic depth that the original may have had, but it makes for a fine piece of exploitation fare. It should be noted that the Blu-ray is sourced from a cut version of the film, but the majority of the cuts are during the (admittedly still) brutal rape scene at the beginning. And while fans may moan that they are losing out on a full uncut version, the film still has quite an impact in this form.

   I have seen Death Wish 2 and 3 prior to these Blu-ray releases, but somehow it escaped me that Led Zeppelin's Jimmy Page did the score for these films (OK, the score for 3 was recycled from 2).  The only thing I was aware of Page doing in the 80's was that awful Coverdale/Page project, and this score alone makes up for that dreadful collaboration. This score is as sleazy as the film itself, and is a great accompaniment to Bronson's onscreen antics.

     The film has a fairly disturbing first act with the rape, and suicide, but that's pretty much par for course with vigilante films, and once Bronson gets going the film really takes off. The gang looks very eighties, and for those people looking out for actors before they were famous you can catch Lawrence Fishburne as a pink sunglasses wearing gang member that Bronson exacts revenge on.

   Death Wish 2 loses a bit of the thematic punch of the first film, but makes up for with a wildly sleazy action packed atmosphere that would end up culminating in the over the top Death Wish 3.  Death Wish 2 nonetheless is a great little slice of vigilante cinema, with a fantastic performance by Bronson, solid direction by Michael Wisher, and a wonderfully sleazy score by Jimmy Page.

 

Audio/Video (3.5/5)

     MGM Home Video have presented Death Wish 2  in a very good 1:85:1 1080p AVC encoded transfer which preserves the films original aspect ratio. This is a vast improvement over the DVD, which MGM released Full Frame. The Blu-ray has a very film like transfer with a decent amount of grain, black levels are solid, and flesh tones are accurate.  The level of detail is quite nice, and colors are natural.  There is some minor production related softness, but overall an excellent transfer.

   MGM have presented Death Wish 2 with an DTS-HD English Mono Track.  The track is completely solid, the dialogue comes through clean and clear, and is mixed well with the sound effects, and Jimmy Page's excellent score.   There are also options to watch the film in Dolby Digital Mono in both French and Spanish. There are optional subtitles included for all 3 languages.

 

Extras (1/5)

MGM has presented the film with only the theatrical trailer as an extra.

 

Overall

   Death Wish 2 is an excellent follow up to the first film.  It does what any sequel tends to do, and ups the amount of action and violence from the first (although not so much as the third film would do). The A/V restoration is quite solid, though it is a cut version which might dissapoint some viewers. Also, as far as extras go there is only a trailer. RECOMMENDED.