Death Wish II

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For the soundtrack album, see Death Wish II (album).
Death Wish II
Death Wish II.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Michael Winner
Produced by Menahem Golan
Yoram Globus
Written by David Engelbach
Based on characters created by
Brian Garfield
Starring Charles Bronson
Jill Ireland
Vincent Gardenia
Music by Jimmy Page
Cinematography Thomas Del Ruth
Richard H. Kline
Edited by Michael Winner
Julian Semilian
Distributed by Filmways Pictures (Original U.S. Distributor)
Columbia Pictures (International Distributor)
CBS/Paramount Television (Television Distributor)
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (Current U.S. Home-Video Distributor)
Release date(s)
  • February 20, 1982 (1982-02-20)
Running time 88 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $2 million
Box office $16,100,000[1]

Death Wish II is a 1982 crime thriller action film directed by Michael Winner. It is the first of four sequels to the 1974 film Death Wish. In Death Wish II, architect Paul Kersey (Charles Bronson) moves to Los Angeles with his daughter (Robin Sherwood). After his daughter is murdered at the hands of several gang members, Kersey is once again forced to become a vigilante. Unlike the original, in which he hunts down every criminal he encounters, Kersey only pursues his family's attackers. The sequel makes a complete break from the Brian Garfield novels Death Wish and Death Sentence, redefining the Paul Kersey character.

The sequel was produced by Cannon Films, which had purchased the rights to the Death Wish concept from Dino De Laurentiis. Cannon executive Menahem Golan planned to direct the film, but Winner returned on Bronson's insistence. The soundtrack was composed by guitarist Jimmy Page. Death Wish II was released in the United States in February 1982 by Filmways Pictures but like the original, Columbia Pictures handled the international release. Made on a $2 million budget, it earned $16.1 million during its domestic theatrical run.


A special report declares an increase of crimes in Los Angeles. At his new residence, Paul Kersey's maid, Rosario (Silvana Gallardo), is preparing dinner. He seems to have picked up the pieces of his New York City life and moved on, now dating KABC news/radio reporter Geri Nichols (played by Bronson's real-life wife Jill Ireland). They go to pick up Kersey's daughter Carol (Robin Sherwood) from the hospital. Her doctor says that despite traumatic catatonia, Carol has begun to speak again. (Her husband, Jack Toby, not seen or mentioned, has presumably left Carol). Paul, Geri, and Carol spend the afternoon at a carnival. While waiting in line for ice cream, Paul gets pick-pocketed by five gang members. He catches up with one who denies taking Paul's wallet, and Paul lets him go.

Geri heads to do an interview with a senator while Carol and Paul go on a boat ride. At the same time, the same five muggers that stole Kersey's wallet come to his house, where they break in and gang rape Rosario and wait for Kersey to arrive. When Paul arrives home with his daughter, he is beaten unconscious. Rosario tries to call the police, but Nirvana hits her with a crowbar, killing her. They kidnap Carol (for fear she will identify them) and take her with them to their hideout where Punkcut rapes her. Before Jiver can rape her next, she runs and jumps through a window, impaling herself on a railing.

Paul regains consciousness as Geri arrives, where they find Rosario's body. When the police arrive, Lt. Mankewicz (Ben Frank) asks for help identifying the muggers. Paul learns about the death of his daughter. He's asked to view mug-shot photos at the station, but says, There really isn't any use. After the funeral, Paul takes a handgun kept hidden in his closet. He uses a low-rent inner city apartment as a base of operations. The next night, he spots one of the muggers, Stomper, and follows him into an abandoned building as a drug deal is about to be made. Kersey kills one of the men, then orders the others out and proceeds to execute Stomper.

The following night, patrolling the streets, he hears a scream from a man and a woman being assaulted by several muggers in a parking garage. One of the muggers is Jiver, the one Kersey chased the day of his daughter’s death. They force the woman into a van where Jiver and another mugger plan to rape her, but before they can, Kersey intercedes, killing 2 and wounding Jiver. Jiver is able to escape, but doesn't get far because Paul follows the blood trail and kills him at a warehouse.

The L.A. police hear about these murders, as does the NYPD. Kersey falls under suspicion and Detective Frank Ochoa (Vincent Gardenia) is called by the LAPD to help. Fearing that Kersey, when caught, will reveal that the cops let him go instead of prosecuting him, the NYPD sends Ochoa to make sure that does not happen. Ochoa meets with Lt. Mankewicz, who suspects Frank is hiding something. Ochoa breaks into Geri’s apartment. He tells her about Paul's past and present vigilante spree. Geri confronts Paul but he denies it, ascribing the tale to Ochoa's imagination. Paul drives Geri to work. Ochoa follows Kersey to a local square where Kersey spots the three remaining gang members who attacked him: Cutter (Laurence Fishburne III), Punkcut (E. Lamont Johnson) and Nirvana (Thomas F. Duffy).

Kersey follows the trio on a bus to an abandoned park, where a major drug deal goes down. Ochoa follows and decides to help Paul when the criminals are about to spot him. Ochoa is shot by a hail of gunfire by Nirvana. Paul manages to kill Cutter (who vainly tries to shield his head with a boom box). Punkcut is also severely wounded. Paul kills the getaway driver and the seller of the firearms, who plummets off a cliff to a fiery doom below. The final mugger, Nirvana, gets away. Paul goes to Ochoa and asks why he saved his life. Ochoa felt it was better to side with Paul than the criminals. He tells Paul to kill one for him, then Ochoa dies as the police arrive. Paul flees. The police get the name of Ochoa’s killer from a badly injured Punkcut just before he dies.

Paul later learns, from one of Geri's colleagues at KABC, that the police are preparing a tactical unit to take down Nirvana. Paul also obtains a police scanner and begins monitoring the police radio traffic, and shortly finds out when and where the arrest of Nirvana is taking place. He goes to the location to exact his own justice on Nirvana before the police can arrest him but he is not successful.

Nirvana (real name Charles Wilson) runs when he sees the police approaching. He gets tasered, but with no effect due to the influence of PCP. He is finally arrested after stabbing several officers and slashing Paul on the arm during a chase. Tried and found criminally insane, Wilson is sent to McLarren State Hospital. Geri and Paul visit, requesting an interview with Wilson, but are turned down. The visit allows Paul to steal a doctor's ID card. Paul proposes to Geri the next day and she accepts. That night, Paul uses his fake ID at the hospital and confronts Wilson. They have a violent fight and Kersey is stabbed repeatedly with a scalpel, but Kersey gains the upper hand when he ducks a punch and Wilson’s hand smashes through an electroshock machine. Kersey quickly turns the power on, which fatally electrocutes Wilson. Ronald Kay (Charles Cyphers), an orderly on duty, witnesses Wilson’s death, but because he is aware that Wilson was part of the gang who raped and killed his daughter, he sympathizes with Kersey and gives him three minutes to escape before sounding the alarm.

Geri goes to his apartment, where she finds a discarded scanned copy of the stolen ID near a wastebasket. Upon hearing a news report of Wilson’s death on the radio, she realizes that Paul really is the vigilante Ochoa claimed him to be. She places her engagement ring on the paper, packs her things into suitcases, and drives off. A few months later Paul is seen speaking about a new architectural design. His boss Elliott Cass (Michael Prince) invites him to a party, and when Paul is asked if he's free, he answers: What else would I be doing? The next scene we see a shadowy figure walking in the night (presumably Kersey) continuing the hunt for more criminals.



The idea to produce a sequel to Death Wish (1974) originated with producers Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus, owners of Cannon Films. They reportedly announced their plans to do so prior to actually securing the rights to the franchise. Dino De Laurentiis co-producer of the original film, threatened them with a lawsuit unless they properly purchased the rights. He negotiated payments for himself, co-producers Hal Landers and Bobby Roberts, and original author Brian Garfield. The agreement included future payments for each prospective sequel. [2]

David Engelbach was then tasked with writing the screenplay. Bronson was offered 1,5 million dollars to reprise the role. [2] Jill Ireland was cast in the film because Bronson, her husband, insisted on it. She serves as both the love interest to Kersey and the voice of opposition to the death penalty. [2]

Cannon initially tasked Golan with directing the film, but Bronson insisted on instead recruiting Michael Winner, the director of the original. Winner had suffered a downturn in his career since the mid-1970s, with no box office hit since Death Wish. He agreed to return to the franchise and also took the initiative in revising Engelbach's script.[2] Winner recalled that De Laurentiis was having second thoughts about letting someone else produce the sequel, and offered to hire him to do the film for his own production company. Winner refused and De Laurentiis did not renege on his deal with Cannon. The producer did, however, start work on a "clone" of the film. The final result was Fighting Back (1982). [2]

The film introduced significant changes for the character of Paul Kersey. One involved his modus operandi as a vigilante. In the original film, Kersey would shoot and kill every criminal in his vicinity. In the sequel, he is after five specific criminals who are responsible for the death of his daughter. His single-minded pursuit extends to ignoring other potential targets. He is seen to mostly ignore thieves, drug dealers, and one violent pimp.[2] Another change involves his abilities. In the first film, his activities as a vigilante rely only on his use of weapons. In the sequel he is able to beat up men considerably younger than himself. [2]

Among the final revisions of the script was a change in location. The original script set the action in San Francisco, while the revision moved the setting to Los Angeles. [2] The film was shot on location and depicted actual "sleazy" areas of the city. Twenty off-duty men of the Los Angeles Police Department were hired to protect the film cast and crew from potential trouble. [2] A scene involving the abandoned and crumpling Hollywood Hotel was shot in an actual abandoned hotel, months before it was demolished. [2] Several of the extras of the film were various locals who were either hired to play a bit part or happened to be passing by during a shooting. Among them were drug addicts, a drag queen, Hare Krishnas and bikers. All included by the director in an attempt to get an authentic feel of the streets of Los Angeles. [2]

Cannon Films was able to sell distribution rights to several interested buyers. Theatrical rights in the United States and Canada were purchased by Filmways. The company had recently acquired American International Pictures, known for its exploitation films, and the film would fit right in with their library of genre films.[2] Columbia Pictures purchased the international distribution rights. Paramount Pictures purchased the television broadcast rights for the domestic market. [2] The film was originally intended for release around the Christmas of 1981. Filmways decided to postpone release until February 1982, in order to face weaker competition for an audience. The strategy apparently worked, since the film became the top grossing film of its opening week. [2]

The film grossed 16 million dollars in United States theatres, a rare box office hit for the ailing Filmways. The company still ended the year 1982 with losses of 52,7 millions. It was subsequently purchased by Orion Pictures. [2] The film earned another 28 million dollars through international distribution. It has since earned further money at home and abroad through release for the video market. A poll for HBO noted Death Wish II to be higher in demand by paying viewers than Chariots of Fire (1981). [2]


Isaac Hayes was recommended along with the producers of the film to compose the score; however, Michael Winner chose former Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page (who was Winner's neighbour at the time). The opening credits bear Page's signature guitar tone, along with the heavy reverb-laden drum sound that he used with Led Zeppelin. The film's soundtrack was released in February 1982.


Death Wish II received mixed reviews from critics.[3] Roger Ebert famously gave it zero stars, stating that it was a horrible film that sullied the legacy of the original 1974 film (which he gave a positive 3-star review on).[4] Modern critics however, have praised the film for its action scenes.[citation needed] Death Wish II currently holds a 29% "Rotten" rating on the review aggregate website Rotten Tomatoes.[5] The movie was nominated for a Stinkers Bad Movie Awards for Worst Picture.[6] The film was nominated for a Razzie Awards for Worst Musical Score.[7]

The movie earned $16,100,000 at the US box office, making a $2 million profit for Cannon films.[8]



  1. ^ "Death Wish II (1982)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2012-07-05. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p Talbot (2006), p. 31-58
  3. ^ Canby, Vincent (February 20, 1982). "Death Wish II". The New York Times. Retrieved 2011-11-06. 
  4. ^ Death Wish, Roger Ebert's Movie Reviews. Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved November 29, 2012.
  5. ^ Death Wish II, Movie Reviews. Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved November 29, 2012.
  6. ^ "1982 5th Hastings Bad Cinema Society Stinkers Awards". Stinkers Bad Movie Awards. Los Angeles Times. Retrieved April 2, 2013. 
  7. ^ Wilson, John (2005). The Official Razzie Movie Guide: Enjoying the Best of Hollywood's Worst. Grand Central Publishing. ISBN 0-446-69334-0. 
  8. ^ Andrew Yule, Hollywood a Go-Go: The True Story of the Cannon Film Empire, Sphere Books, 1987 p24

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