Saturday 24 July 2010

Movie Review: Death Wish V: The Face Of Death (1994)

If he had a wish other than a death wish, Charles Bronson probably wished that, at 73 years old, he wouldn't be reprising the role of urban vigilante Paul Kersey for the fifth time. Twenty years after first creating the role in 1974, Bronson, in his final screen role, is back to clean up New York one last time.

This time Kersey take on an old-fashioned gang of Irish goons involved in money laundering and protection rackets. The gang leader Tommy O'Shea (Michael Parks, acting as though he's not sure how seriously to take this role) is the ex-husband of Kersey's new love interest, fashion designer Olivia Regent (Lesley-Anne Downe, finally finding the bottom of her career trajectory).

The fashion design angle is what was likely considered an innovative excuse to show Grade C models in various stage of backstage undress. Other than a high body count, the latter Death Wish movies also needed a high nipple count as essential plot elements. There is also a clothing factory where all sorts of dangerous machinery is left running and unattended in the middle of the night: bad business practice, but good to facilitate random torture scenes and innovative methods of murder.

Olivia Regent has clearly never watched any of the other four Death Wish movies, otherwise she would know that anyone getting close to Kersey ends up first mutilated and then very dead. Once that particular necessary piece of business is taken care of by O'Shea's gang, Kersey's latest killing spree is triggered, and he single-handedly eliminates, cleans-up, and mops after the bad guys. It's not clear what is more uncomfortable: watching a 73 year old Bronson trying his hand at romance; or the 73 year old Bronson initiating and enjoying a gory bloodfest.

All actors who ended up in this movie probably realized with certainty that they had a promising career very much behind them. Say hello to Robert Joy (Atlantic City and Ragtime) and Saul Rubinek (Wall Street and Unforgiven).

The film is produced by one of the kings of bad 1980's movies, Menahem Golan, and directed by Allan A. Goldstein, who is faithful to the lack of any talent that preceded him in the series. Death Wish V seems curiously stuck in a couple of wrong decades at once. The film desperately tries to recreate the New York of the 1970's; while the fashion and hairstyles seem to be left-overs from the 1980's. This all serves to emphasize what a pathetic effort this is, and what a dismal ending to Bronson's career.

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