3/21/2017

DEATH WISH II- Special Edition, Shout Factory (Blu-Ray Review)

Title: Death Wish II
Director: Michael Winner 
Writer: David Engelbach, Brain Garfield (characters)
Cast: Charles Bronson, Jill Ireland, Vincent Gardina, J.D. Cannon, Anthony Franciosa, Ben Frank
Year: 1982
Min: 91 (unrated), 88 (R-rated)

Blu-ray released by: Shout Factory

Specs:  

Sound: English: DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 
Image

Resolution: 1080p Aspect ratio: 1.85:1

Plot-Paul Kersey (Charles Bronson) has moved on with with his life and is living in LA. He is dating radio reporter, Geri Nichols (Jill Ireland). His daughter Carol (this time played by pretty Robin Sherwood) has been going through therapy and finally seems to have begun to show some signs of recovery. Kersey takes both Geri and Carol to the fairground. He goes on line to get some ice cream and, then, a street gang picks Kersey's pocket. He catches up with one of them and roughs him up. But, that guy doesn't have his wallet. Kersey lets the scumbag go.
Soon there after, the gang breaks into Kersey's home, where they brutally gang-rape the maid, Rosario (Silvana Gallardo). When, Kersey finally gets home, he gets knocked out. They then kidnap Carol. One of the gang members take one final, brutal blow to the head of Rosario, leaving her dead and naked on the floor. Meanwhile, at their hideout, Carol gets raped by one of the gang members, while the others look on. After he is done, she runs and jumps out the window. Her body falls on a gate spike, impaling and killing her. Despite everything that has occured, Kersey gives no information to the cops and instead decides to go after the gang, himself, with his trusty gun.
Review- The sleaziest and nastiest of the Death Wish sequels, the second entry has long lived in infamy. It is also genuinely the best sequel in the series. A violent, taut revenge thriller that stands as the type of mainstream action film that would never be made today. An early hit for the legendary Cannon Films, it has become a cult classic and, now thanks to Shout Factory we can see it unrated finally. But, more on that later.


The acting is solid, although not much character development is given to the villains. We get what is need to further tell the story and that's it. As such, the bad guys are multi-ethnic gang members, who include among their ranks a young Laurence Fishburne. The main scumbag is Nirvana (Thomas C. Duffy), but all we need to know is that the bad guys are sick perverts and criminals. There is no redeeming them, and they simply need to die. 

Bronson is his genuine badass self, taking shit with great calm. He just does what he needs to, IE finding the gang and pumping lead into them. His interactions with Ireland's (his wife, at the time, who does a good job here) character of Geri adds some light moments to the grim film. Vincent Gardina returns in the role of Frank Ochoa, from the first film. He comes from NY to look for Kersey and gives some of the film's best laughs.
Returning director Winner shows some nice style with some good, fluid camera movement. The movie is a bit slow at times. But, it is more interested in being a captivating revenge thriller, than an all out action film, unlike the entries that followed. As mentioned before it also very sleazy and admit ably mean-spirited. The intense violence is upped considerably from the original which didn't really have any graphic blood-letting. 

This is most evident in this unrated cut. For years US fans have heard about this longer and more graphic unrated cut. To earn an R-rating in the US three scenes were cut down. The first two are the very nasty rape scenes, including a longer take on Rosario's nude, dead body. Yes, the rapes are, indeed, worse and harder to look at in the unrated version, than they ever were before. Also, Carol's gory implement is slightly longer and in more looming detail. 
Picture- This is definitely an upgrade from the earlier MGM Blu-ray release. There is still a decent amount of grain, but there isn't anyway you were gonna fully get rid of that. The improvement comes in form of the excellent colors. They are more lively than before and detail is excellent. This is the best this movie will ever look and as such stands as a superb picture transfer of an 80s exploitation, action film.

Sound The stereo sound is good. Dialogue sounds clear and isn't drowned out by other sounds. Jimmy Page's soundtrack (in case you don't know he did the film's cool score) and the action scenes sound aggressive enough to give it a little extra kick in the ass.

ExtrasYou have the option of watching Death Wish II in either the R version or the aforementioned unrated cut. For many Death Wish that might have been enough reason to buy this Blu-ray, but Shout Factory again deliver the goods in the extra feature department.

As, it also has brand new running commentary over the unrated version by the author of Bronson's Loose!: The Making of the Death Wish Films, Paul Talbot. He really knows what he is talking about and gives fans a plethora of interesting and fascinating facts. He talks about the ratings problems, what was cut from the R, about the cast, etc. He talks about everything you want to know about the movie. This is a definite must listen for fans of the film, franchise, and Bronson, himself.

It also has the film's theatrical trailer and TV spot, the later of which is not mentioned in the back of the packing but is included. 

On top of all of this, it also has a reversible cover, that features two different movie posters of the film.

Final Thoughts- Death Wish II might just be the sleaziest and dirtiest entry in a mainstream action franchise ever. It's also violent, badass, and holds your interest throughout. The best of the sequels in the series, it is finally given a US unrated release. And, it is a stellar one at that. Featuring the best picture it ever had, or likely ever will with a good sound quality, it hits the marks in the aesthetic aspect of the disc. There isn't a whole shit load of extras, but what there is excellent in nature. For Bronson and Death Wish fans this Blu-ray as an absolute must have!

Movie: 4 out of 5
Picture: 4
Sound: 3
Extras: 3.5

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