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Death Wish V: The Face of Death 1994 (NA-no award)

What’s better than watching Charles Bronson in Death Wish V: The Face of Death? Almost anything, and yet there’s something hypnotic about a movie this spent, this tired, this utterly bereft of any redeeming feature. A benchmark in cinematic awfulness, Death Wish V was the only one of the vigilante series that I hadn’t seen until last weekend, and watching it caused my body to revolt, causing me to spend two days in bed shivering, delirious, my sense of reality distorted and warped, begging for a dawn which wouldn’t come. Like Dr Jekyll, writing feverishly in his journal, I now write these words with furrowed countenance as a warning to the curious to make sure that other unwary mortals do not travel down this path.

Let’s back up a bit. Michael Winner’s Death Wish in 1974 was a game-changing hit, an urban revenge fantasy in which mild-mannered architect Paul Kersey (Charles Bronson) fights back against the crime-wave that took his wife from him. It’s a nasty but effective film, but the retro-appeal is somewhat compromised by the protracted rape scene which the exploitative sequel Death Wish 2 unwisely doubles down on to become a reprehensible low in the franchise and cinema history as a whole. Things perk up in the farcical Death Wish 3, in which Kersey inspires a neighbourhood of game old-aged pensioners to use flame-throwers and rocket launchers to terrorise local thugs; filmed on location in an English primary-school playground, it’s genuinely funnier than most comedies. Death Wish 4; The Crackdown was anonymous rubbish, but Death Wish V effectively slammed the door of Paul Kersey’s adventures.

OK, so we know Kersey best can the hardest of criminals in NYC and LA, but how would he fare in the cut-throat world of high fashion? That’s the bizarrely wrong-headed concept of Death Wish V, in which Kersey’s romance of a fashion queen (Lesley Anne-Down) leads to her untimely death and sends Kersey out on a revenge mission that must by now feel as mundane as a trip to his local grocery. But surely, Bronson and a big gun must mean some kind of decent action fare? Well, not really; he favours other, less iconic methods of dishing out justice; a dish best served hot here, when he sneaks into a kitchen and poisons a mobster’s cannelloni. Or how about another goon, who Bronson tracks down and blows up using a remote control football? These scenes are as poorly executed as they are ridiculous, and must have left hardened veterans of the franchise exasperated.

Even veterans like the super Michael Parks are left stranded here; Death Wish V’s writer went on to create Face/Off and Tomb Raider, so you can draw your own conclusions. With Bronson phoning it in and looking every inch the 73 year old action star, you’ll feel older than Bronson by the time this lame adventure has trickled to a halt; it’s wall-to-wall remote-controlled balls from beginning to end.

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  1. You got that right! Have not read the book, but the first film has an edge, and some black humor that works. There are no virtues in the other films other than the sniggers that’s the third film causes; you made the sensible choice here!

  2. So, to speak on the movie.
    I watched the remake first, then the original movie and then read the book. The book was absolutely astounding. The original movie shocked me with the invasion scene and was what I was expecting from the remake.

    But knowing Bronson and the kind of films he became known for, I shied away from all the DW sequels. Sounds like I made the right choice! 🙂

    • The migration to a .com was quite an operation, well over a thousand reviews, so everything had to be done in stages. Getting the comments back was something I was keen to do, since it’s agonising for me not knowing what people might think of Death Wish V. But I had been keen to get something that was more fun to naviagate; I get that readers are attracted to new reviews of new films, but I’m always pleased when I can lure the reader into something other than what they came for…still a work in progress, but lots of UK/US PR comanies can’t access a wordpress site directly, so a .com was always on the cards.

      • And just be aware that there doesn’t seem to be anyway to be notified of follow up comments. I’m guessing you don’t have the jetpack plugin from wordpress installed. You might want to think about an “email follow up comments” like blogspot has.

        Otherwise people have to manually check. And with your steady output, it’s easy to forget where one has commented 🙂

        And congrats on going full on dotcom. I hope it works out great for you!

        • Thanks for this, it’s hard to know what the experience is like for readers and the comments make it worthwhile. I had help with the move, so I’ll take these helpful comments and see how best to move forward with them. Cheers!

    • Just about, thanks for asking! But do not inject this movie internally, it’s pure poison!

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