Death Wish II (1982)

Death Wish II (1982)

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"I should be at home sipping cocoa..."
“I should be at home sipping cocoa…”

Twitter Plot Summary: Paul Kersey’s daughter is killed by thugs and he sets off on a quest for revenge. Just like the first Death Wish.

Paul Kersey must be the unluckiest man in the world. After the events of the first Death Wish, in which his wife was murdered and his daughter horribly raped by a gang of hoodlums, almost the same thing happens again a few years later. His daughter, traumatised from her past terrors, doesn’t speak. Kersey meanwhile has managed to move on and is engaged in a relationship with his daughter’s psychologist, played by Charles Bronson’s real life wife Jill Ireland. After a brief encounter with a street gang his daughter is kidnapped and dies in a somewhat ludicrous fashion, and his housekeeper raped and left for dead. On recovering from the assault against him he then sets out on a quest for revenge against those who are responsible.

And so events play out much as they did in the original film, except this time the vigilante Kersey targets those specifically responsible for the death of his daughter and housekeeper rather than any criminal he happens to meet. There’s no young Jeff Goldblum this time, but instead we have a young Laurence Fishburne to keep us entertained. There’s also the little matter of the police unofficially endorsing his efforts to clean up the streets rather than making every effort to track him down. A different narrative path to travel down and something new and a little different to keep things interesting and more than a rehash of the first film.

The revenge template is a well worn one, but thankfully in this instance there is sufficient variation on the theme to keep the plot moving along. Kersey targets the hoodlums one by one in a variety of situations, no longer the inexperienced and generally inefficient vigilante of old. Now he knows precisely what he’s doing and how he’s going to do it.

A far cry from Morpheus.
A far cry from Morpheus.

You shouldn’t take too much from the fact this was produced by the infamous Cannon Films, the notorious film production company that gave us mostly terrible direct to video nonsense, like Cyborg. In its own way Death Wish II is of a similar ilk, but is surprisingly entertaining despite the fact you have an increasingly elderly Charles Bronson beating up a group of men that are a lot younger than him. How does he manage it? Vitamin supplements, no doubt.

Michael Winner’s direction isn’t the best it’s ever been, but it’s competent enough in the circumstances. Perhaps more could have been done to make the action more dramatic, however he seems more at home in directing the more emotional sequences around Kersey and his relationships with his daughter, initially, and throughout with Ireland’s Geri Nichols. Her involvement gives Kersey something to bounce off, an indication of what he stands to lose if he continues down the vigilante path he has chosen.

That proves to be the heart of this story, although it also offers catharsis as Kersey manages to track down the perps one by one and dispenses justice in a number of inventive ways. If you needed proof, Death Wish II shows that age shouldn’t be a barrier to anything, whether it’s vigilante justice or something more mundane like getting out of the house and having a walk around the park now and again.

Score: 3/5

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