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MGM Studios DVD presents
Death Wish 2 (1982)

"There is only one truth about the use of the death penalty. Why do we kill people for killing people to show that killing is wrong?"
- Senator McLean (Paul Comi)

Review By: Jesse Shanks   
Published: February 02, 2004

Stars: Charles Bronson, Jill Ireland, Vincent Gardenia, Robin Sherwod, Silvana Gallardo
Other Stars: J.D. Cannon, Anthony Franciosa, Thomas F. Duffy, Laurence Fishburne
Director: Michael Winner

MPAA Rating: R for (violence, rape, language)
Run Time: 01h:28m:43s
Release Date: February 03, 2004
UPC: 027616902092
Genre: action

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B- C-BD+ C+

DVD Review

Architect Paul Kersey (Charles Bronson) used to live in New York and during that time his wife was brutally killed by hoodlums. After dealing with ineffectual, indifferent police and suffering the helplessness of being a victim, Kersey armed himself and began to take revenge on the criminals who attacked his family as a vigilante. As he roams the streets in search of the gang, he is involved with several incidents in which he saves the lives of citizens being mugged or robbed. Remarkably, the circumstances conspire to make him a hero when crime drops in the city. Now Kersey lives in Los Angeles. He and his new girlfriend Geri Nichols (Jill Ireland), take his daughter Carol (Robin Sherwood), who survived the original attacks mentally damaged, out to a street fair. There, Kersey has his pocket picked and the gang of thugs use his driver's license to go to his house before he gets home.

The Death Wish films were controversial in their day for several reasons. Partly, the naked brutality of the violence and also the fear, like other violent films such as Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange, that there would emerge copycat crimes incited by imitating the film. Bernard Goetz, known as the "subway vigilante," shot four young men in a New York subway car in 1984 after he said the men threatened him and tried to rob him. The shooting became a national sensation, as many subway riders, concerned about subway muggings, applauded Goetz's actions. Three years after the shooting, Goetz spent 250 days in jail, convicted of criminal possession of an unlicensed weapon, but was acquitted of attempted murder and assault.

This second and the subsequent sequels (through Death Wish 5 in 1994) focus less on the ethical issues of vigilantism and deal more in the systematic slaughter of criminals by Kersey. The film is more like Night of the Living Dead with the hoodlums standing in as zombies or Friday the 13th, with gangs instead of camp counselors. The films are creepy but not good drama. Watching something like this leaves a less than wholesome feeling at the end. To say that some of the violence is gratuitous is a serious understatement. I understand that we must be shown graphic depravity on the part of the villains, so that we are invested in Kersey's feelings of revenge. But still, some of the graphic violence we see here is way over the top.

Michael Winner directs in a straightforward 1970s-style that evokes the semi-documentary look that emerged at the end of the '60s. In this sequel, there is little attempt to develop much suspense, but there is a rather unnerving tendency toward black humor. Kersey almost winks and nods as he shoots down his next victim.

Bronson is stolid in the type of role that he played just too many times in his career. It is a shame that an actor who played so many fine parts is so often most associated with this group of films. One would have to think that the compensation he received was appropriate justification. Jill Ireland appears here, one of the many films that the two made together, and she is quite competent in her performance. Vincent Gardenia returns as New York Detective Frank Ochoa that had hunted Kersey in New York. J.D Cannon and Anthony Franciosa appear in rather needless cameos as police officials. Look for a young Laurence Fishburne as "Cutter," one of the muggers who attack Kersey's family.

One of the more interesting aspects of Death Wish 2 is the soundtrack by Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page. The music was created during a time following the dissolution of the band when drummer John Bonham died. Page released no new material for several years and it was rumored that he had hardly touched the guitar until he began work on the soundtrack. It is certainly one of the more unusual scores for a film with heavy electronics and guitar leads that create a jarring and unsettling environment for a violent and unsettling film. Some moments are reminiscent of Led Zeppelin rave-ups like Dazed and Confused and Whole Lotta Love. Page went on to score the third film in the series as well.

Not a pleasant film, but the Death Wish series has its fans. Although not a top-notch DVD release, Death Wish 2 fills the bill of bring the second of the series to DVD and not much else.

Rating for Style: B-
Rating for Substance: C-


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Rationo

Image Transfer Review: The full-frame "formatted to fit my screen" transfer is serviceable, but it was hard to work up much enthusiasm either way. There are some eerie castings to some scenes and it was difficult to determine whether these were color flaws are what passed for style in the production.

Image Transfer Grade: B


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access

Audio Transfer Review: There are no doubt a lot of movies out there that deserve this kind of transfer. Nothing special. I was disappointed that the one redeeming feature of Death Wish 2, the score by Jimmy Page, was not treated with more respect and at least rendered in stereo. Don't pay full price.

Audio Transfer Grade: D+


Disc Extras

Static menu with music
Scene Access with 16 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish
1 Original Trailer(s)
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: This is a low budget release and, surprisingly, it has the original trailer included. Interesting to see how they marketed this film back in the 1980s, an era in which street crime was at a height in the United States. So, an extra bump for that fact.

Extras Grade: C+


Final Comments

Charles Bronson as vigilante Paul Kersey in Death Wish 2 is for fans only. Not much pleasant going on here, although it does sport a rare film score by Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page.


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