Vids I Dig 194: Razörfist: Rageaholic Cinema: The ‘Death Wish’ Film Series (In 5 Parts)

From The Rageaholic/Razörfist’s YouTube description (DEATH WISH 1): Because Batman is a pussy.

From The Rageaholic/Razörfist’s YouTube description (DEATH WISH 2): Have you accepted Bronson as your personal lord and savior?

From The Rageaholic/Razörfist’s YouTube description (DEATH WISH 3): Maximum Life Expectancy: One Scene.

From The Rageaholic/Razörfist’s YouTube description (DEATH WISH 4): DEATH!

From The Rageaholic/Razörfist’s YouTube description (DEATH WISH 5): The only film where Bronson’s ‘death wish’… is probably literal.

Film Review: Death Wish (2018)

Release Date: March 1st, 2018 (UAE, Kuwait, Philippines, Singapore)
Directed by: Eli Roth
Written by: Joe Carnahan
Based on: Death Wish by Wendell Mayes, Death Wish by Brian Garfield
Music by: Ludwig Goransson
Cast: Bruce Willis, Vincent D’Onofrio, Elisabeth Shue, Dean Norris, Kimberly Elise, Beau Knapp, Camila Morrone

Cave 76, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 107 Minutes, 97 Minutes (Mainland China censored version)

Review:

“People rely on the police to keep them safe. That’s the problem. The police only arrive after the crime has taken place. That’s like trapping the fox as he’s comin’ out of the hen house. If a man really wants to protect what’s his. He has to do it for himself.” – Ben

Well, I finally got around to watching this remake no one asked for. But I have to admit, the team up of director Eli Roth and actor Bruce Willis kind of intrigued me. Although, with Roth attached, I expected this to be over the top in regards to violence but it was pretty tame.

This also throws Vincent D’Onofrio, Elisabeth Shue and Dean Norris into the mix, so it had a solid cast.

Being a fan of the original film series, I never wanted more. I mean we had five films, three of which were great, one of which was good and another one that was at least amusing enough to justify its existence. Plus, I didn’t want to see anyone else other than Charles Bronson play Paul Kersey.

However, unlike the Bronson Kersey, the Willis Kersey is not an architect, he’s a doctor. That significantly changes the plot but then it also makes me wonder why this had to be a Death Wish movie as opposed to just some other vigilante revenge flick?

Like a lot of the modern vigilante movies, this one is pretty run of the mill, predictable and doesn’t offer much of anything that you haven’t seen before and done better.

Now I didn’t dislike this. In fact, I liked seeing Bruce Willis kick ass because he’s so damn good at it. He also elevates just about every movie he’s ever been in. Plus, the rest of the cast pulled their weight and I liked everyone in this that wasn’t a scumbag.

There’s nothing special here though. It’s just good, mindless entertainment but it doesn’t hold a candle to the first three films that Bronson did. Hell, it doesn’t hold a candle to Kevin Bacon’s vigilante flick Death Sentence. But if you’ve got nothing better to do for 107 minutes, give it a shot.

Rating: 6/10
Pairs well with: Death Sentence with Kevin Bacon and the original five Death Wish films.

Film Review: Death Wish V: The Face of Death (1994)

Release Date: January 14th, 1994
Directed by: Allan A. Goldstein
Written by: Allan A. Goldstein, Michael Colleary
Based on: characters by Brian Garfield
Music by: Terry Plumeri
Cast: Charles Bronson, Lesley-Anne Dowd, Michael Parks, Saul Rubinek, Ken Welsh, Robert Joy

21st Century Film Corporation, Trimark Pictures, 95 Minutes

Review:

“Let the law take these guys down. You know, sometimes the law works.” – Lt. Mickey King, “And sometimes it doesn’t! These people, they steal, they murder, they destroy people’s lives and they get away with it! They have alibis, money, lawyers, power. They have everything.” – Paul Kersey

This is the worst Death Wish movie. But that’s like saying that missionary is the worst sex position. Because frankly, you’re still having sex and that’s way better than not having sex.

Charles Bronson is back for the final time and this round, he gets to ham it up with Michael Parks, who makes a good final villain for the series.

This one is kind of bizarre though, in that it all takes place in and around the fashion industry. Bronson’s new girlfriend (and soon to be fiance a.k.a. dead) owns a fashion house but her ex-baby daddy is a piece of shit gangster that has his slimy hands in the business and is making her life hell.

Bronson’s Paul Kersey tries to fight back to save his new love and her daughter but this bad guy pretty much owns the town. So leaks in the district attorney’s office lead to tragedy and thus, intense revenge at the hands of Kersey.

Robert Joy also pops up in this, as probably the creepiest character he’s ever played. The scene where he’s dressed in drag, sneaks into the women’s restroom and then starts smashing Kersey’s fiance’s face repeatedly into a mirror is absolutely fucking brutal. And while I wouldn’t say that this is as violent as the Death Wish movies put out by Cannon, the moments of violence seem much more realistic and terrifying.

Despite a heaping pile of flaws, this is still damn enjoyable to Death Wish fans. It’s lacking that ’80s Cannon Films magic but Bronson, Parks and Joy all carry the picture. Additionally, Saul Rubinek brings something solid to the movie too.

Rating: 5.75/10
Pairs well with: the other Death Wish movies and the Dirty Harry film series.

Film Review: Death Wish 4: The Crackdown (1987)

Also known as: Death Wish IV (working title)
Release Date: November 6th, 1987
Directed by: J. Lee Thompson
Written by: Gail Morgan Hickman
Based on: characters by Brian Garfield
Music by: John Bisharat, Paul McCallum, Valentine McCallum
Cast: Charles Bronson, Kay Lenz, John P. Ryan, Perry Lopez, Soon-Tek Oh, George Dickerson, Dana Barron, Danny Trejo, Tim Russ, Hector Mercado

The Cannon Group, 99 Minutes

Review:

“Who the fuck are you?” – Rapist, “Death!” – Paul Kersey

As I said in early Death Wish reviews, the film series starts to fall off after the third movie. However, this installment was actually better than what I remembered. Maybe that’s because I hadn’t seen this one in a really long time and because I am a Cannon Films junkie that just needs unapologetic, high octane, violent, ’80s action pumped into my veins on a regular basis.

That being said, Charles Bronson still brings his fucking A game in this one.

Now the plot is kind of a disjointed mess with a swerve as to who the real villain is and while I like that in the noir films of the ’40s and ’50s, it isn’t done in a very clever way. It’s also kind of predictable and you see it coming once the guy who is presented as the big bad is killed with about a half hour to spare.

But all that means is that you get a final showdown between Charles f’n Bronson and John P. Ryan, another man’s man and old school action film badass. In fact, Ryan has a fate that is very similar to the baddie of Death Wish 3.

Now out of the first four films, this one is the weakest. I definitely remember the fifth being the worst, despite boasting the talents of Michael Parks, as its villain. But this was still a satisfying movie that gives you just about everything you want in a Death Wish or Cannon Films motion picture. But nothing could have followed the last twenty minutes of the third film, which is the best balls out action sequence of the 1980s and maybe of all-time.

Death Wish 4: The Crackdown still shines though. Plus, not only does it feature Bronson and Ryan but it also gives us a young Danny Trejo, Tim Russ before he was Tuvok on Star Trek: Voyager, Soon-Tek Oh as a dirty cop and Hector Mercado as a drug dealing shithead.

Sure, the film could have been better with a more fluid narrative but do you really care that much about that stuff when watching a Chuck Bronson murder festival? I don’t. I just want to see the scum of the Earth meet violent ends. In Death Wish 4, like its predecessors, that’s exactly what you get.

Rating: 6.75/10
Pairs well with: the other Death Wish movies and the Dirty Harry film series.

Film Review: Death Wish 3 (1985)

Also known as: Death Wish III (working title)
Release Date: November 1st, 1985
Directed by: Michael Winner
Written by: Don Jakoby (as Michael Edmonds)
Based on: characters by Brian Garfield
Music by: Jimmy Page, Mike Moran
Cast: Charles Bronson, Deborah Raffin, Ed Lauter, Martin Balsam, Gavan O’Herlihy, Alex Winter, Marina Sirtis, Barbie Wilde

Golan-Globus Productions, The Cannon Group, 88 Minutes

Review:

“It’s like killing roaches – you have to kill ’em all. Otherwise, what’s the use?” – Paul Kersey

Some people are going to wonder why I gave this film a really high rating and why I place it above the original. Well, I can’t give it a 15 out of 10 for just the last twenty minutes, so when I average everything out, the big climax pulls the rating up to a 9 out of 10.

Why?

Because the violent, explosive finale of this motion picture is the best big action sequence in the history of American filmmaking. It’s incredible, it’s badass and it force feeds you so much testosterone that some people have sprouted extra testicles.

As a total body of work, this isn’t a better movie than the first one. But the massive action-filled crescendo of a one man army against a city infested with human cockroaches is the stuff of legend! In fact, for fans of action movies, especially from the ’80s and made by Cannon Films, this is an absolute treat and a pillar of perfection for the genre.

Additionally, this chapter in the franchise has a great ensemble that works well with the great Charles Bronson. You’ve got Ed Lauter as the dickhead cop that allows Bronson to go Bronson on New York City, Martin Balsam as a tough old guy who has done some fine movies in his day, Barbie Wilde who was once a Cenobite, Marina Sirtis from Star Trek: The Next Generation, Alex Winter from the Bill & Ted movies and Lost Boys, as well as the always underappreciated Gavan O’Herlihy as the shitball, scumbag gang leader.

This is one of those movies where guns only run out of ammo if it suits the plot. Bronson literally shoots the damn machine gun for what feels like an eternity. Then when that actually runs out of ammo, his pistols are seemingly powered by Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas cheat codes. Plus, he uses an impractical but insane .475 Wildey Magnum. It’s like he’s got fucking Megatron in his hand! Scratch that, it’s like he’s got a handheld fucking battleship! The developers of the video game series Doom need to rename “God Mode” to “Bronson Mode”.

The film then ends with Bronson running into his apartment to finally reload, after twenty minutes of turning New York City into a carnage filled lead mine. He is then ambushed by Gavan O’Herlihy wielding a gun. But what’s Bronson do? He shoots him, in his own living room with a fucking bazooka! And he stands there after the walls explode into the street, completely unscathed while the corpse of the shitball, scumbag gang leader burns in the street below, covered in the rubble of what used to be Bronson’s apartment.

I remember watching this as a kid and thinking that it was the most epic thing I had ever seen in an action movie. I wasn’t wrong. But sadly, nothing has come along since and lived up to this movie’s stupendous finale. Sure, there are a lot of incredible, high octane action pictures, especially from Cannon Films, but this one took the cake and no one else has ever been able to get a slice.

Death Wish 3 needs more recognition for its greatness. I think it’s dismissed because it’s the third film in a long running series. The first one is beloved but everything after it doesn’t get the same sort of adoration. I mean, I can understand that in regards to parts 4 and 5, but 2 and 3, especially 3, deserve to be shown on a large screen in the center of every town for the rest of eternity.

If you consider yourself an action movie fan and you’ve never experienced the third act of Death Wish 3, you’re an absolute fucking fraud.

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: the other Death Wish movies and the Dirty Harry film series.

Film Review: Death Wish II (1982)

Also known as: Death Sentence (working title)
Release Date: February 11th, 1982 (UK)
Directed by: Michael Winner
Written by: David Engelbach
Based on: characters by Brian Garfield
Music by: Jimmy Page
Cast: Charles Bronson, Jill Ireland, Vincent Gardenia, J. D. Cannon, Anthony Franciosa, Charles Cyphers, Laurence Fishburne III, Roberta Collins

American-European Productions, Golan-Globus Productions, Landers-Roberts Productions, City Films, Filmways Pictures, Columbia Pictures, 88 Minutes

Review:

“You believe in Jesus?” – Paul Kersey, “Yes, I do.” – Stomper, “Well, you’re gonna meet him. [Paul shoots Stomper dead]”

The first three Death Wish movies are classics, as far as I’m concerned. And even if this is my least favorite of the first three, it is still a damn fine action picture with barrels full of flammable testosterone ready to explode off of the screen.

What gives this film an extra edge to the original is that it was put out by Cannon Films, the true maestros of the ’80s action flick. This was an unapologetic balls to wall inferno with Charles Bronson’s Paul Kersey returning to form and then getting even more hardcore.

Years have passed since the first movie but this picks up with Kersey, now living in Los Angeles, bringing his daughter home for a visit. Since the first picture, Kersey’s daughter has been living in a mental institution due to how screwed up she is from the opening sequence of the first film that saw her raped while her mother was murdered in front of her.

As Kersey and his daughter arrive home, they are attacked, their maid is murdered and the daughter is abducted and raped by vile thugs. Kersey, without hesitation goes right back into vigilante mode. All the while, his new girlfriend, who he plans to marry, is pulled into Kersey’s violent orbit.

This film has more of a direct focus on its baddies, as Kersey wants to murder the hell out of the gang that took his daughter and were responsible for her suicide. In the first film, Kersey basically just fights street level crime in all its forms. Here, he has no problem fucking up a few thugs but he has his sights on one specific gang.

Death Wish II also does a good job of fleshing out this gang and its members. You know them more intimately than the scumbags from the first movie. One of them is played by a very young Laurence Fishburne but most of them are recognizable and memorable because the film did a good job of giving them all visual cues like the dude with the buzzmullet, the one with the leather dog collar and the one with the frizzy hair and backwards flatcap. Even Fishburne wore thin funky sunglasses that helped identify him in a sea of degenerates.

Now I can’t call this a better film than the original but it’s a very worthy successor to it. It seems darker, more violent and it doesn’t waste time trying to make a political or social message to the viewer. It just trusts that you hate garbage humans and that you relish in seeing them suffer for their sins. And man, Charles Bronson makes them fucking suffer.

Death Wish II is what an action movie should be: no nonsense, guns blazing, unapologetic masculinity.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: the other Death Wish movies and the Dirty Harry film series.

Film Review: Death Wish (1974)

Also known as: The Sidewalk Vigilante (working title)
Release Date: July 24th, 1974
Directed by: Michael Winner
Written by: Wendell Mayes
Based on: Death Wish by Brian Garfield
Music by: Herbie Hancock
Cast: Charles Bronson, Hope Lange, Vincent Gardenia, William Redfield, Stuart Margolin, Steven Keats, Jack Wallace, Jeff Goldblum, Christopher Guest, Olympia Dukakis

Dino De Laurentiis Corporation, Paramount Pictures, Columbia Pictures, 94 Minutes

Review:

“Nothing to do but cut and run, huh? What else? What about the old American social custom of self-defense? If the police don’t defend us, maybe we ought to do it ourselves.” – Paul Kersey

While I still haven’t seen the 2018 remake of this film, I wanted to at least revisit the originals. I’ll probably check out the Bruce Willis starring remake pretty soon but it’s been quite awhile since I’ve seen the original Paul Kersey clean up the mean streets of the United States.

In this, the first film of five, he cleans up the streets of New York City. He moves around from city to city in each film, as he can’t stay put in one place for too long.

Anyway, the film follows Paul Kersey, played by Chales Bronson, a man’s man. He is a pretty liberal and pacifistic guy until his wife is murdered and daughter raped and attacked in their home by vagrant, criminal scum. Kersey, unable to accept the failure of the system, becomes a vigilante and sparks a one man war on crime. However, his actions inspire the people of New York City to stand up and defend themselves as well. Soon, city officials want to put a lid on it but they kind of like Kersey, as crime rates are dropping and it looks good for the people in power.

This is a pretty political and social film for its day, as crime in New York City in the 1970s was at an all-time high and people were legitimately scared just walking down the street. I kind of wonder how the 2018 remake will address these issues, as Hollywood hates controversy these days, unless they’re reminding us of how much they hate Republicans, especially our current president. But I digress.

Charles Bronson is known for being a badass in a ton of films but this might be the best he’s ever been. It certainly evolved into his most famous role but playing a character five times will do that.

This is a gritty, realistic film. Bronson isn’t some invincible warrior, he is an everyday man, in over his head. A man with flaws and inexperience who fucks up because of that. But it’s his drive and ambition that really makes the character work. He is kind of driven by a type of mania, not caring that the law is on to him. He just commits to the bit, no matter what repercussions he may face. It’s refreshing to see, all these years later, because nowadays, everyone is a f’n John Wick or Frank Castle.

This first Death Wish movie is the best of the lot. But in saying that, it isn’t my personal favorite even though it’s the superior film. I really love the third one but I’ll get into that when I review it in the future.

But overall, this is a solid ’70s action flick with a giant barrel of testosterone concentrate.

Also, it is the film debut of Jeff Goldblum and has very early roles for Christopher Guest and Olympia Dukakis.

Rating: 8.25/10
Pairs well with: its sequels and the Dirty Harry film series.