Archives For Charles Bronson

Death Wish IV: The Crackdown (1987)

The Death Wish franchise trundles on with this new chapter that sees J. Lee Thompson take over directing duties from Michael Winner. Paul Kersey is back and has settled into a relationship with another disposable girlfriend who may as well be called ‘Token Female Character’. This plot progression in a skirt has a daughter who quickly dies of a drugs overdose, which of course lights a fire in Kersey’s belly for some instant justice.

With Death Wish 3 being such a euphoric high, Death Wish IV: The Crackdown sees its audience coming down hard and fast. This is a decidedly dull entry in the franchise that echoes Death Wish II with its lack of originality. Bronson has clearly given up the ghost, speaking his lines with one eye off camera checking to see if the ink has dried on his cheque yet.

By the far the only real interesting thing that happens in this after-school special of a movie is an opening dream sequence which sees Kersey gun down a perp that looks exactly like him. Waking in a cold sweat Death Wish IV suggests Kersey will do a little bit of soul searching and ask whether he’s become just as bad as the people he kills. Then, one overdose later, the prospect is thrown over a rainbow never to be seen again.

Death Wish V: The Face of Death (1994)

Well, it’s been seven years since the last Death Wish, so it’s time to warm up Charles Bronson in the microwave and stick him front of a camera. Cannon Films, the producers of the last two films, is dead but here comes 21st Century Film to save the day. It should be noted that 21st Century Film is owned by one half of Cannon. Yay! I think.

Paul Kersey is now under witness protection and in a relationship (yeah, I know) with Olivia, an ex-gangsters moll. Said gangster, Tommy O’Shea (Michael Parks) is up to shady business and when Olivia becomes a witness to his crimes, he sets about getting her killed.

If you’ve got this far in the series, you know where this is all going. However, despite the crushing inevitability of it all, Death Wish V reminds you that the franchise is actually somewhat watchable when it’s bathing in its own bloody-mindedness. Like Death Wish 3, Kersey has become a cartoon again; taking out baddies like a revenge thirsty Bugs Bunny. It’s all rather comedic and, as such, you can see a little sparkle in Bronson’s eye in the action. Yes, he looks way to old to be doing this, but he at lest looks like he’s having fun on set again.

Worth watching just to see Kersey blow someone up with a football.

Death Wish (2018)

Released only a few short weeks after the Parkland High shooting, anticipation for this remake of Death Wish with Eli Roth (Hostel) at the helm was running low. That said, when gun crime is so prevalent in American news, there’s perhaps no right time to release a piece of media that appears to champion gun violence. See, for example, Netflix’s Punisher.

Eli Roth’s films have never been particular favourites of mine. The Green Inferno is the only one that’s ever grabbed my attention thus far. Death Wish roughly follows the same plot as the original with Paul Kersey (Bruce Willis), now a doctor instead of an architect, seeking revenge for the assault on his daughter and murder of his wife. Actually, it’s about an hour of Bruce Willis looking terminally bored whilst he debates whether to get revenge before the final act sees his stunt man take over and skulls start getting crushed.

Willis has put more effort in the VOD films he’s been in of late than he does this film. When he laments over the assault of his daughter, you could almost be forgiven for thinking Roth edited in a rehearsal take by accident. The only person who comes out with any dignity is Vincent D’Onofrio as Kersey’s brother, and he is given very little to do. For a filmmaker who once showed us a man having sex with a roast turkey, it’s staggering how little imagination or energy has been pumped into this remake. Roth doesn’t even appear to be running on autopilot like he did in Knock Knock. This is just a tired film that tries to play both sides of the gun control debate whilst secretly championing lashings of spent bullets. So, I guess, in that sense, it shares a lot with the Michael Winner original.

Death Wish (1974)

Michael Winner’s Death Wish is loosely based on the novel of the same name from Brain Garfield. How loosely? Well, Garfield was so incensed by the interpretation of his work, he wrote a sequel to rectify the situation.

Charles Bronson (The Evil That Men Do) plays Paul Kersey, a liberal, pacifist architect. Or as today’s alt-right would call him: a cuck. When his wife and daughter are brutally assaulted – in a scene that truly never needed to be as long as it is and proves that Jeff Goldblum can only ever play Jeff Goldblum – Kersey retreats into himself, impotent with rage at a society that would let the perpetrators escape. This fire and fury is sharpened when our humble architect meets an Arizona gun nut, whose stance on justice encourages Kersey towards gun-ishment.

Sure, the film dips its toe into the debate about vigilantism and Kersey is seen throwing up after his first official kill. However, this is just foreplay before the inevitable shootouts that see Kersey running through the streets taking out mugger after faceless mugger. The fallout of which sees him being carried around New York city on the shoulders of the police, who love his strong defence against muggers. Okay, that’s not exactly what happens, but it’s clear that Death Wish, slickly directed by Michael Winner, is well and truly has its feet planted in the pro-gun lobby. If this doesn’t do it for you, the sequels are going to really bum you out.

Death Wish II (1982)

Eight years after the events of the original, Paul Kersey is now living in LA with his Radio DJ girlfriend, Geri (Jill Nichols) and his daughter from the first Death Wish, Carol (Robin Sherwood). Despite the events of 1974 leaving Carol a shell of a woman who doesn’t talk, life seems idyllic. That is until Laurence Fishbourne and his crew of violent thugs break into Kersey’s house, rape his maid and kidnap Carol. Carol is subsequently sexually assaulted in a warehouse, before jumping to her death to escape her attackers. With his daughter having been metaphorically stuffed into a fridge, Kersey gets the whiff of blood in his nostrils once again.

In a slightly more focussed rampage than last time, Kersey actually tries to track down the men who did him wrong, rather than simply taking pot shots at anyone running with a handbag. The drop in quality between this and its predecessor is staggering. It’s easy to point fingers at Cannon Films, famed for their act first, think later approach to producing, but the blame can also rest with the terrible script, Bronson’s phoned in performance, Michael Winner’s dull as dish water direction and the deep hatred of women that runs throughout the film. Yes, calling films of this calibre misogynistic is a lot like calling fire hot, but holy moly! A lot of sequels play up what made the first so popular, but surely no one was asking for more sexual assault? Surely.

Death Wish 3 (1985)

In 1987’s Batteries Not Included, the tenants of a rundown apartment building in New York find their lives up turned when they’re visited by tiny little alien crafts. These diminutive extra-terrestrials help their tenants stand up to ‘the man’ and everything works out for the best. Death Wish 3 is a lot like Batteries Not Included. The rundown apartment building in New York is a rundown apartment building in New York, ‘the man’ is a group of vicious Hispanic thugs (a number of whom are clearly not Hispanic) and the tiny extra-terrestrials are Charles Bronson returning once again as Paul Kersey.

Death Wish 3 feels like a coked-up executive somewhere said, ‘We should make a Death Wish cartoon! You know, for kids!’ A pilot was written up, dropped and then picked up to form the bulk of this second sequel. Death Wish 3 is utterly ridiculous and, after the despair of the previous film, is actually pretty watchable. What surprises the most is how we hit the ground running. After a friend is killed in their apartment, Kersey is already on the hunt for the killer before the film hits the ten minute mark. From then on, Kersey helps the other tenants to arm themselves like they’re in Home Alone, before finally running through the streets with a Colt Cobra and then a machine gun.

Death Wish 3 is as subtle as a slap from a brick and often makes little sense. It also can’t help itself when it comes to sexual assault, because, obviously, how is Kersey supposed to get really angry if no one is getting assaulted. A scene made ickier by the fact, the actor in question, Sandy Grizzle, would later claim Michael Winner used her as a sex slave.

And if you think I’m grumbling about the violence, I throw you over to Mr Bronson who had this to say about the film: ‘There are men on motorbikes, an element that’s threatening – throwing bottles and that sort of thing – and I machine gun them. That to me is excessive violence and is unnecessary.’

He came back for Part 4 though, didn’t he?