New to Blu: Shout Factory - Death Wish II (1982) - Reviewed

Newly released on blu-ray by Shout Factory, this release of Death Wish II features both the theatrical cut and the hotly anticipated unrated cut. Despite some disturbing imagery, it is a highly entertaining and gritty sequel that sees Bronson walloping you in the gut and delivering a bullet to your head.

With any sequel, it’s always difficult to come up with a story that isn’t completely formulaic. We all obviously know and expect for an event to occur that will trigger Bronson and his quest for vengeance. However, it’s the little things in this that really add to the narrative, which include the debate over psychological treatment and its effectiveness, the relationship between Bronson and his girlfriend, the media and its coverage of violence, the inability of the police to be everywhere all of the time, and the political side of dealing with crime and its publicity. All of this helps give it some additional depth.

With most revenge and vigilante movies, there is obviously going to be a great deal of violence and shocking sequences. This is no different, including two graphic rape scenes that are fully restored on the unrated edition. They are particularly explicit and many would argue that they are abhorrent and have no place in cinema; however I believe that they are necessary in order to provide the viewer with substantial justification for Bronson’s hostile and deadly actions.

Touch it. Touch my gun. 

Director Michael Winner also returns after helming the original, delivering as you would expect from this veteran filmmaker. What’s noticeable in his work is that he always uses actual locations instead of studio sets, providing realistic settings and showing the dark and seedy parts of Los Angeles. He also incorporated a lot of great close up shots of people’s faces, which was particularly effective in the main rape sequence. You can see the characters sweating throughout, which helps add an element of authenticity that might have otherwise been missing. The score was composed by Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin fame and it is an interesting mixture of rock and synthesizers. It is absolutely infectious at times, with high strings and elevated sounds that help amp up the tension.

The cast are all superb, especially the five gang members. Their behavior at times may seem outlandish, but I think it makes them even more frightening because of it. The leader of the gang is a young Lawrence Fishburne, way before he becomes a part of The Matrix. What can you say about Charles Bronson besides that he always brings it when it comes to playing the tough guy. He does add some additional layers in his portrayal by displaying a tender side as well as grief, while also performing most of his own stunts, fighting bad guys, and increasing the body count.

If you’re a fan of Bronson or Winner, then this is a quality sequel worth watching.

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-Raul Vantassle