Last of the Monster Kids

Last of the Monster Kids
"LAST OF THE MONSTER KIDS" - Available Now on the Amazon Kindle Marketplace!

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Recent Watches: Death Wish II

Eight years later, Bronson found himself working for the Cannon Group, the leaders in eighties exploitation action-movie cheese. It wasn’t long before Golan and Globus wanted to sequelize Bronson’s most iconic film. Refusing to work with any filmmaker besides Michael Winner, “Death Wish II” was quickly thrown together.

Looking even more like a grouchy old man sneering at a world full of eighties punk, basically the same shit happens to Paul Kersey again. Living in LA, still working successfully as an architect, Kersey has got a nice apartment, a pretty attractive girlfriend, and a Spanish maid. His daughter is still mute but overall seems much happier. A gang of new wave goons, some of them with shaved eyebrows, in pink glasses, pastel outfits, snatch Kersey’s wallet. He knocks them on their asses in retaliation. Revenge is a two-way street though. The gang of five find Kersey’s apartment, brutally rape his maid in an incredibly uncomfortable, utterly sickening scene, kidnap his daughter and rape her too, forcing her to jump to her death. Basically, new decade, new city, same shit, same ol’ Bronson.

This time Paul Kersey’s reaction is much more muted. Honestly, his reaction to the news of his daughter’s death is almost resigned. Kind of a fed up sense of, “Aw man, not this shit again.” After angrily chopping some wood, Kersey gets right back into shootin’ mode. The biggest irony about the original film is that Kersey never got to take out the goons that destroyed his family. The sequel immediately corrects that nice moment of ambiguity. Paul knows exactly who the thugs are and goes after them personally. He rents an apartment above a church. (For a fact, there’s a lot of religious stuff going on in the background in this film. Not sure if that was intentional or just accidental.) Trying to hide his nightly murders from his girlfriend and the cops, who are well on his trail after New York, Kersey lives a double life.

The action is heavier this time. Which actually makes the movie more fun. The shoot-out in the parking lot is good. The gun battle with the gang and the weapons dealer, which involves a lot of dodging behind trees, is pretty cool. The scene were one of the thugs tries to kill Kersey with a forklift is somewhat suspenseful. There’s more blood in the squibs. Aside from the rather disturbing rape scene early on, there’s some random nudity and implied rape floating around too. (Michael Winner had some issues with women, I’m thinking.) So it’s definitely much more of an exploitation film then the first part. Bronson even gets to throw around some one-liners. There’s a great one too. You’ll know it when you hear it.

The punks are way more cartoonish then before. The film is even more of a reactionary fantasy because of it. The film kind of plays like Bronson and Winner pissed off about all the new wave kids out there. Oddly, Charlie actually acts a little in this too. His scenes with Jill Ireland, his real life wife of many years, are nicely warm with a lot of smiling and humor. It contrasts with how cold and executioner-style he is with his enemies.

In the last act, the leader of the gang doesn’t get sent to real prison, but to a mental hospital. Well, that kind of thing won’t stand. Bronson goes completely immoral by faking papers and disguising himself as a doctor. He sneaks into the hospital with the intent of murdering the scumbag in cold blood. What follows is a pretty cool close-quarters fight scene making good use of a shiv and a shock therapy machine. It continues the theme from the first film that Kersey is still a regular dude and isn’t beyond getting surprised or taken at a disadvantage. The bad guy’s death is kind of hilarious though. Once again, Bronson is allowed to get away, scot-free. The film cheers on his complete abuse of power and even suggests that it will continue. And that this is a good thing. 

So part 2 is a skuzzier, dumber affair then the first film. Three of the punks are black but the film never stops to question the implications of a wrinkly old white guy shooting young black kids full of holes, much less portraying those black kids as anything but paper-thin villains. But if you’re looking for action, it does deliver. The Jimmy Page score has a lot of screaming guitars, making the whole thing even more macho. The franchise is all ready sliding out of possibly intriguing territory into empty-headed guilty pleasure. (6.5/10)


It’s hard to miss a young Lawrence Fishburne as the gang member sporting pink wrap-around sunglasses. His boom box doesn’t protect him.

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