*. The word that came to mind as I was watching Death Wish II was tired. This is a tired movie. Of course it’s formulaic, but it’s worse than that. It’s a movie that’s just going through the motions without energy, originality, or even a sense of conviction in its message, which had grown stale since the release of the original Death Wish eight years earlier.
*. Roger Ebert gave it no stars, and mentioned in his review how the two returning cast members (Charles Bronson and Vincent Gardenia) “seem shell-shocked by weariness in this film.” In his defence, Bronson was 59, which was elderly in 1982. Ebert concludes: “The movie doesn’t contain an ounce of life. It slinks onto the screen and squirms for a while, and is over.”
*. The next step down from Dino De Laurentiis was the Cannon Group (a production company run by Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus). I’ve seen this referred to as Cannon’s first Hollywood film. They would go on to put out a ton of similar crap throughout the ’80s, including a lot of Chuck Norris flicks and more Death Wish sequels. I guess they had a good run, but they’re no longer in business.
*. Michael Winner returned because he had nothing better to do. What he brought to the project can be judged by his statement that it was “the same, but different” from the original: “That’s what sequels are — Rocky II, Rocky III — you don’t see Sylvester Stallone move to the Congo and become a nurse. Here the look of LA is what’s different. Besides — rape doesn’t date!”
*. Rape doesn’t date. Ugh. The original screenwriter didn’t like the rape scene and thought Winner had just wanted to put it in out of personal prurience. Ugh.
*. What’s to like? Laurence Fishburne III as a hood, in a role I’m sure he’d like to forget. The sleazy flophouse that Paul Kersey stays in when he goes out on his hunting expeditions. And the groaning guitar work by rocker Jimmy Page (the only part of the score I liked).
*. Aside from that it’s just Bronson hunting down the hoods that killed his daughter. There are a couple of decent kills, set up in the most improbable ways imaginable. Jill Ireland is allowed a classy exit from the series and a sequel is all but announced as we hear gunshots echoing through the streets of L.A.