Death Wish II
|Death Wish II|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Michael Winner|
|Produced by||Menahem Golan
|Written by||David Engelbach|
by Brian Garfield
|Music by||Jimmy Page|
|Cinematography||Thomas Del Ruth
Richard H. Kline
|Edited by||Michael Winner
|Distributed by||Filmways Pictures (US)
Columbia Pictures (International)
Paramount Pictures (TV)
|Box office||$45 million (worldwide)|
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 breakaway 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 and Paramount Pictures via Trifecta Entertainment & Media handles the television rights. It earned $16.1 million during its domestic theatrical run.
Paul Kersey (Charles Bronson) has managed to recover his shattered life and moved on, and is now dating L.A. radio reporter Geri Nichols (Jill Ireland). They go to pick up Kersey's daughter Carol (Robin Sherwood) from the mental hospital. Her doctor says that despite traumatic catatonia, Carol has begun to speak again. Paul, Geri, and Carol spend the afternoon at a fairground. While waiting in line for ice cream, Paul's pocket is picked by five gang members: Nirvana (Thomas F. Duffy), PunkCut (E. Lamont Johnson), Stomper (Kevyn Major Howard), Cutter (Laurence Fishburne) and Jiver (Stuart K. Robinson). He catches up with Jiver but finds out that he does not have his wallet, so Paul lets him go.
Geri leaves to do a radio interview while Carol and Paul go on a boat ride. The five gang members break into Paul's house as revenge for Jiver getting beaten up by Paul and the gang rape the maid, Rosario (Silvana Gallardo), then wait for Kersey. When Paul arrives home with his daughter, he is beaten unconscious. Rosario tries to call the police, but a mugger hits her with a crowbar on the head, killing her. They kidnap Carol, take her to their hideout, and begin to rape her. She jumps through a window in an attempt to escape, and dies after impaling herself on an iron fence with spiked finials below.
When the police arrive, Lt. Mankewicz (Ben Frank) asks for help identifying the muggers, but Paul refuses. After Carol's funeral, he takes a .380 Beretta 84 handgun to a low-rent inner city hotel as a base of operations. The next night he spots Stomper and follows him into an abandoned building as a drug deal is about to be made. Kersey kills one of the dealers, then orders the others out and proceeds to shoot Stomper twice in the chest after quipping Do you believe in Jesus? Well then, you're going to be with him. The following night when, he patrols the streets, he hears a scream from a couple being assaulted by three muggers in a parking garage. One of the muggers is Jiver. Paul interferes, killing two and wounding Jiver. Paul follows Jiver's blood trail to an abandoned haystack and shoots him in the head with a .45 M1911A1 pistol as he tries to drive out of the barn in a truck.
The LAPD and NYPD hear about the murders. When Kersey falls under suspicion, NYPD Detective Frank Ochoa (Vincent Gardenia) is called in to investigate the case. Ochoa fears that Kersey, when caught, will reveal that he was released without charge eight years ago instead of being prosecuted for killing ten muggers. Ochoa meets with Lt. Mankewicz, who suspects Ochoa lying to him. Ochoa intrudes into Geri’s apartment and tells her about Paul's vigilante spree. Geri confronts Paul about Ochoa's revelation but he denies it.
Ochoa follows Kersey to a local square where Kersey spots the three remaining gang members. He follows them to an abandoned park, where a major arms and drug deal is taking place. A sniper spots Kersey and attempts to kill him but Ochoa ambushes and shoots the sniper dead. A huge gunfight ensues in which Cutter is shot in the face when he tries to protect his face with a boom box. Ochoa is shot, while Paul kills Cutter and mortally wounds PunkCut.The arms dealer tries to drive away but Paul shoots him several times,causing him to lose control of his car and subsequently drive off a cliff. However,Nirvana mows Ochoa down with a M16 assault rifle. Ochoa tells Paul to avenge him but dies of his wounds when the police arrive. Nirvana escapes the scene. Paul also escapes while PunkCut dies from his injuries after giving information about Nirvana to the police.
Paul later learns, from one of Geri's colleagues, that the police are preparing a tactical unit to capture Nirvana. Paul obtains a police scanner and, by monitoring police radio traffic, finds out when and where the arrest is going to take place. He drives to the location. Nirvana is tasered several times, but with no effect due to the influence of PCP. He is finally restrained after stabbing several officers and slashing Paul on the arm during a chase. Tried and found criminally insane, he is sent to a mental institution. Geri and Paul visit him, requesting an interview, but are turned down by corrupt medics. While there, Paul steals a doctor's ID card. The next night, Paul uses his fake ID to enter the asylum and confront Nirvana; Paul tries to shoot him, but Nirvana overpowers him. They fight and Paul is stabbed repeatedly with a scalpel. But Nirvana's fist ends up stuck in an electroshock machine. Paul turns the power on, fatally electrocuting him. A sympathetic attendant gives Paul three minutes to escape before hitting the alarm.
Geri goes to Paul's apartment, where she finds out how he made his fake ID. Upon hearing a news report of Nirvana's death on the radio, she realizes that Paul really is the vigilante Ochoa claimed him to be. She places her engagement ring on a newspaper, packs her belongings, and drives off in her car. Paul arrives home to an empty apartment.
A few months later, Paul is speaking about a new architectural design. His boss invites him to a party, and when Paul asked if he's free to attend, he answers: "What else would I be doing?". We next see a shadowy figure walking in the night (presumably Kersey) continuing the vigilante hunt.
- Charles Bronson as Paul Kersey
- Jill Ireland as Geri Nichols
- Vincent Gardenia as Det. Frank Ochoa
- J.D. Cannon as New York District Attorney
- Anthony Franciosa as LA Police Commissioner
- Robin Sherwood as Carol Kersey
- Charles Cyphers as Ronald Kay
- Ben Frank as Inspector Lt. Mankiewicz
- Paul Comi as Senator Robert McLean
- Michael Prince as Elliot Cass
- Thomas F. Duffy as Charles Wilson aka Nirvana
- Laurence Fishburne III as Cutter
- Kevyn Major Howard as Stomper
- Stuart K. Robinson as Jiver
- E. Lamont Johnson as Punkcut
- Silvana Gallardo as Rosario
- Robert F. Lyons as Fred McKenzie
- Frank Campanella as Judge Lake
- Don Dubbins as Mike
- Buck Young as Charles Pearce
Brian Garfield, author of the original Death Wish novel, was so unhappy with the film version that he wrote his own sequel, Death Sentence. "They'd made a hero out of him," said Garfield. "I thought I'd shown that he'd become a very sick man."
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.
Cannon did not want to use Garfield's book, preferring an original story by David Engelbach, Golan and Hal Landers. "We think our story is a better film story," said Golan.
"You cannot call a film exploitative just because it touches on disturbing issues," said Globus. "Both Death Wish films are a valid comment on American society... the theme of street violence getting out of control is sadly more of a fact of life than it was seven years ago."
David Engelbach was then tasked with writing the screenplay. Bronson was offered $1.5 million to reprise the role. 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.
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. 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).
Winner said the sequel was pertinent because "mugging is now a bigger issue in America. It's spread to towns where it was not a problem before. In Beverly Hills, instead of talking about other people's failed movies - thank God, something has stopped them at last - they talk about their muggings."
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. 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.
Winner said the film was "the same, but different," to 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!"
Screenwriter David Engelbach argued the film raised "serious issues - namely, the deteriorating state of our criminal justice system. The actions of the Bronson character are dictated by the inability of the police to prevent crime, the preoccupation of the courts with technical rather than real justice, and the cancerous climate of fear in which we find ourselves today. Paul Kersey is no hero. In his pursuit of vengeance he loses the only emotional relationship of his life and by story's end has become as much a victim of crime as the thugs he leaves dead in his wake."
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. A scene involving the abandoned and crumpling Hollywood Hotel was shot in an actual abandoned hotel, months before it was demolished.
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.
Winner tried to keep the mood on the set lighthearted. "Just because a film is terrifying, that doesn't mean the people making it have to be grim," he said.
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. Portions of the score were sampled by Twiztid in the song "Spiderwebs" from their album Heartbroken & Homicidal.
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. Columbia Pictures purchased the international distribution rights. Paramount Pictures purchased the television broadcast rights for the domestic market. 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 film became the top-grossing film of its opening week.
The film grossed 16 million dollars in United States theaters, a rare box office hit for the ailing Filmways. The company still ended the year 1982 with losses of 52.7 million. It was subsequently purchased by Orion Pictures.
It made a $2 million profit for Cannon films and made an extra $29 million worldwide.
Death Wish II received mostly negative reviews, and currently holds a 29% "Rotten" rating on the review aggregate website Rotten Tomatoes. Vincent Canby of The New York Times said it was "even more foolish, more tacky and more selfrighteously inhumane than the 1974 melodrama off which it has been spun" and "so lethargic that it fails even to provoke outrage." He particularly criticized the way the film essentially repeats the plot of the original, the contrived incompetence of the police characters, and Jill Ireland's unconvincing performance. Roger Ebert gave it zero stars, noting that he reserves this rating solely for those very few films which are both "artistically inept and morally repugnant." Citing the lethargic tone of the acting and directing, the lack of plot, the lifeless dialogue, and the weak action sequences, he concluded that "while the first film convinced me of Bronson's need for vengeance, this one is just a series of dumb killings." Variety called it "every bit as revolting as ... the original".
- Talbot, Paul (2006), "Death Wish II: Bronson's Loose Again!", Bronson's Loose!: The Making of the Death Wish Films, iUniverse, ISBN 978-0595379828
- THE REINCARNATION OF A 'DEATH WISH' Trombetta, Jim. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 13 July 1981: g1.
- Talbot (2006), p. 31-58
- At the Movies: What making independent films means. Chase, Chris. New York Times (1923-Current file) [New York, N.Y] 24 Apr 1981: C8.
- LETTERS: OUT OF FOCUS Engelbach, David. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 19 July 1981: b99.
- Andrew Yule, Hollywood a Go-Go: The True Story of the Cannon Film Empire, Sphere Books, 1987 p24
- Death Wish II, Movie Reviews. Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved August 13, 2016.
- Canby, Vincent (February 20, 1982). "Death Wish II". The New York Times. Retrieved 2011-11-06.
- Ebert, Roger (January 1, 1982). "Death Wish II Movie Review & Film Summary". RogerEbert.com. Retrieved 14 August 2016.
- "Death Wish II". Variety. December 31, 1981. Retrieved 14 August 2016.
- "1982 5th Hastings Bad Cinema Society Stinkers Awards". Stinkers Bad Movie Awards. Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on October 17, 2006. Retrieved April 2, 2013.
- Wilson, John (2005). The Official Razzie Movie Guide: Enjoying the Best of Hollywood's Worst. Grand Central Publishing. ISBN 0-446-69334-0.