Review: Death Wish 2&3, 4&5

Blu-ray & DVD: Death Wish 2, 3, 4, 5 (1982 – 1994)

Paul Kersey; a man so unlucky in love and life, that whoever gets emotionally involved with him, inevitably ends up dead…or at the very least, severely injured. Thanks to Umbrella Entertainment and the fantastic blu-rays that popped through the door here at 60MW Towers, I was given a chance to follow his story from the 2nd instalment of this great franchise, right through until the end.

Before settling down for a 4 film Death Wish extravaganza, I rewatched the original Death Wish to reacquaint myself with the character of Paul Kersey (Charles Bronson).

Not as violent as I remembered, the original is still a great action/revenge film that had a 53 year old Bronson looking very intimidating.

Jump forward to 1982, and a now 61 year old Bronson is back as Paul Kersey (still looking great by the way) in what is definitely the most violent and shocking entry into the Death Wish franchise.

Presented here in both the theatrical and uncut directors version (I of course watched the uncut version) Kersey has moved to Los Angeles to try and start afresh after the horrors in New York.

His surviving daughter from Death Wish is now a young woman, but still suffering mentally from the trauma that befell her. While Kersey is out of the house, 5 street thugs (who have previously had an altercation with Kersey) break into his house and violently (and sexually) attack his daughter and housekeeper. This attack is lingered over by returning director Michael Winner, and makes you feel bad at yourself for watching it. However, this forms the catalyst not only for Kersey once again going on a revenge fuelled killing rampage, but also for the viewer to empathise with his actions…these guys deserve everything that’s coming to them.

While thematically being an almost carbon copy of the original, Death Wish 2 ups the action and the violence, leaving you cheering for Kersey to seek his revenge…and hopefully have a ‘happy ever after’.

3 years later and Death Wish 3 arrives, and all hopes for that ‘happy ever after’ for Kersey are thrown out of the window…as are numerous people.

Playing out like a homicidal Home Alone, Kersey returns to New York and is embroiled into helping the local residents of an apartment block to stave off a gang of street thugs who have decided to take over the district for themselves. This time though, Kersey has the backing of the police chief who encourages him to do their dirty work for him…without letting the public or press know of course.

Death Wish 3 takes a left turn from the pseudo-realistic setting of the first 2 films, and places it firmly into the hyper-realistic, cheesy, neon-coloured, high hairsprayed hair of the 1980’s.

While the ‘bad guys’ in 1&2 are detestable, the gangs here are almost laughable at times…and I loved the film for it. The attack and rape in Death Wish 2 made me want to have a shower afterwards, but the attacks in DW3 had me cheering with a big smile on my face. Not as I condoned what they were doing, but in the manner that it all played out. Michael Winner stopped lingering on sexual violence and embraced the absurdity of Kersey’s bad luck and ran with it.

The fun action continues in Death Wish 4: The Crackdown (coming 2 years after DW3).

Kersey once again gets into a romantic relationship, and…surprise, surprise…it all ends badly. This time through a drug cartel being involved.

Off goes Kersey (Bronson, now aged 66 and still not a guy that I’d want to argue with) on a vendetta against drug lord Nathan White (another fantastic performance by John P. Ryan who chews all of the surrounding scenery with aplomb).

A 7 year gap until Death Wish 5: The Face of Death closes off the franchise (until of course the latest reboot/remake arrived) and while Bronson (now aged 73) has admittedly slowed down a lot, he still pulls off the part of a pissed off vigilante.

DW5 is the weakest of the bunch, and not because of an ageing Bronson…though it is fun to see how stunt doubles are used more for him in this entry. It is the fact that the whole premise has been watered down…it is almost an hour into the running time before Kersey makes his 1st kill…and then it is death by cannoli! If you think that’s weird, his 2nd kill is by remote controlled football! And yes, he does get into another relationship…guess what happens to her?

Even though DW5 is the weakest, it is still highly enjoyable…albeit in a ‘let’s get mates and beers and DW5 for an evening’ kind of way.

I highly recommend both discs, and it is fantastic to watch the journey of Paul Kersey as he constantly tries to rid the streets of criminals. Bronson (for me at least) is always watchable, and here you can follow him in what is probably his most iconic role.

Some great special features round off what should be another addition to anyones film collection.

Death Wish 2&3 SPCIAL FEATURES:

  • DISC 1 (BD50)
  • DEATH WISH 2: UNRATED DIRECTOR’S CUT
  • DEATH WISH 3
  • Death Wish 2 Trailer
  • Death Wish 2 TV Spot version 1
  • Death Wish 2 TV Spot Version 2
  • Death Wish 3 Trailer
  • Death Wish 3 TV spot
  • Interviews with cast members Alex Winter, Robin Sherwood, screenwriter David Engelbach – and Todd Roberts, son of producer Bobby Roberts. (Extended interviews from Mark Hartley’s ELECTRIC BOOGALOO)
  • DISC 2 (DVD9)
  • DEATH WISH 2: ORIGINAL THEATRICAL CUT
  • DEATH WISH 2: TV CUT
  • DEATH WISH 2: GREEK VHS CUT

Death Wish 4&5 SPCIAL FEATURES:

  • AUDIO COMMENTARIES BY PAUL TALBOT
  • THEATRICAL TRAILERS
  • TV SPOT
  • TV BROADCAST PROMO
  • VHS PREVIEWS
  • IMAGE GALLERY

Review by Dave (host of 60 Minutes With) from discs kindly supplied by Umbrella Entertainment.