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Death Wish 2 (1982)

by on 2012/11/24

“Get the motherf*cker for me.”

* * *

I do love me some Death Wish Charles Bronson.

Okay, there’s a part of me that I knows I shouldn’t praise Bronson’s Death Wish series in any way. The part of me that is a pink-blooded, soft-hearted liberal who cares about kittens, flowers, human rights and stuff should decry Bronson’s ode to vigilantism, his shoot-the-punk-in-the-face justice. But there’s something about Charles Bronson in this over-the-top series that keeps me coming back.

Playing an unhinged architect, Bronson as Paul Kersey makes Dirty Harry‘s Harry Callahan look like a tea-sipping NPR radio host. I mean Callahan was a police officer after all, Kersey’s not even authorized to carry a weapon. Kersey designs office buildings for jeepers’ sakes.

There’s a clear exploitative formula with the Death Wish series. Unattractive punks terrorize a city, in this case L.A. Horrific rape scene(s). And I do mean horrific. Police waffle ineffectively. Liberals warble on in talk radio interviews.

Charles Bronson broods silently, fashioning weapons from ordinary household objects.

Kersey gets in close to the city’s underbelly. He encounters thugs, gets his ass handed to him. Encounters creeps again, shoots them in the ass (literally in this sequel).

Death Wish 2 follows closely on the heels of the first Death Wish. Kersey’s adult daughter is still traumatized by the death of her mother. The doctors say she’s making progress. She even talking a little now. Sigh.

But the scum of the city won’t let Kersey and his family be. This hideous chorus line of thugs led by Laurence Fishburne (Matrix) is even less sympathetic than the New York band of freaks supported by Jeff Goldblum.

The home invasion of Kersey’s house is not Morpheus’ most enlightened hour. It may not even be humanity’s finest hour. It is pretty awful to watch. But it makes Bronson’s systematic eradication of the punks very, very justifiable.

This film seems to have learned a lesson from the first. There’s less of a slow, meandering build from mild-mannered white-collared office drone into a flinty vigilante in this sequel. This seems to move along at a positively spritely pace. Bronson’s a zero to 100-miles-an-hour killer.

This film is purest exploitative pap. However, it is entertaining exploitative pap. The entertainment value rides almost entirely on Charles Bronson’s thick, square shoulders, and in the delights of his craggy, impassive face.

He leads a double life as a chipper architect dating a lovely reporter Geri played by Bronson’s real-life wife Jill Ireland. Then he’s a killer living in a seedy hotel. His expression barely changes but it is interesting to watch.

He entertains his lady with blood dripping down his arm, the product of a brutal fight with baddies. Just watching this film to see Bronson’s weak smile for “polite society” is worth the price of admission.

That and the gunplay.

* * *

88 minutes

Rated R

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