DVD Review HTF Review: Death Wish 2

Discussion in 'DVD' started by Jason Perez, Jan 23, 2004.

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  1. Jason Perez

    Jason Perez Second Unit

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    [​IMG]


    Death Wish 2







    Studio: MGM
    Year: 1982
    Rated: R
    Film Length: 89 minutes
    Aspect Ratio: Standard (4:3)
    Subtitles: English, French, and Spanish
    Audio: English - Monaural





    At times, the American justice system can be frustrating, especially for those who think criminals receive more protection from the legal system than victims do. The original Death Wish worked because of its subject matter appealed to this frustration, and also because of its high level of character development, which is unusual in films like this. Unfortunately, Death Wish II is the polar opposite of its predecessor, and comes off as a sequel bereft of imagination or passion, as well as an obvious attempt to make a buck off the original’s success.

    In Death Wish 2, Paul Kersey (Charles Bronson), who apparently has more bad karma than anyone else on earth, is back. This time, however, Paul has relocated to Los Angeles, California to get a fresh start after committing a series of revenge-based killings in New York. Paul and his mentally challenged daughter Carol (Robin Sherwood) are just seeking an escape from this dark past, and things seem to be moving in the right direction with the change in scenery. As the film opens, Kersey really seems happy, and is even sporting a new girlfriend, named Geri (Jill Ireland). Those damn street thugs just won’t leave well enough alone though, as Kersey’s daughter is abducted, sexually assaulted and chased to her death early in the film. Once Kersey is informed of his daughter’s demise, the killing machine within him is switched on again.

    Well, that is the plot in a nutshell, and as you can see it is by and large a rehash of the same formula used in the original film. In and of itself, there is nothing wrong with re-using a premise. Hell, countless film series have before the Death Wish series, and many more have since. Where Death Wish 2 falters is that everything is completely predictable, with this shell of a storyline merely serving as an excuse to exhibit gunplay and violence. This film is also completely free from suspense, although it certainly contains plenty of acting that is more wooden than an oak tree to go along with the ample amount of bloodletting.

    Perhaps the worst crime committed by the filmmakers behind Death Wish 2 is how they kill the semi-original premise from the first film by transforming it into a pointless and one-dimensional piece of formulaic crap. Not only was this film not necessary, and the beginning of the downward spiral for the Death Wish saga, but it devalues the first film, which was actually quite good. Seriously, there is nothing new in the way of character development for Paul Kersey, and almost no character development at all for those who surround him in this film. Some of the action sequences are shot in an interesting manner, but the characters in this film are so bland, it is hard to care about anything happening on the screen. What really would have been nice is if Kersey had filled this abysmal turd of a project with lead before it ever got off the ground!!!

    NOTE: A friend informed me that there are two cuts of this film; a trimmed down U.S. version (by several minutes), and a more risqué cut released in Europe. I am not at all sure what the “extended” cut contains, but my guess is that portions of the rape scenes were removed, since they appear to be heavily edited.




    SO, HOW DOES IT LOOK?
    MGM presents Death Wish 2 in full-frame (4:3), which has not been “modified to fit your screen” as is proclaimed before the film starts. While this is clearly not a release that is going to rival Finding Nemo in sales, I really wish that movies with an aspect ratio other than 4:3 be released as they were filmed!!! At the very least, viewers should have the option of purchasing the “widescreen version”, especially since so many more of us have 16x9 displays these days! Of course, since my job is to evaluate what is on the disc, not rant about what I wish was on it, here goes…

    All things considered, Death Wish 2 doesn’t look too bad at all. To begin with, color rendering is suitable, if a bit muted, and the print is cleaner than one might expect from a 22-year old film that has not been restored. For instance, some film grain and print damage is present, but neither becomes a major issue. Flesh tones are also fairly accurate, although they tend to lean slightly towards orange in a few scenes.

    Further, although edge enhancement halos are faintly visible on a couple of occasions, they are not terribly distracting. Blacks were also deep and avoided becoming crushed throughout, which is important, as many scenes in the film’s later stages transpire on the streets of Los Angeles after nightfall. Happily, these scenes contain plenty of sharp edges and commendable shadow detail.

    I have to be honest, I expected a lot worse from Death Wish 2, and although the images on this disc won’t convince anyone they are watching reference quality video, the transfer is certainly serviceable.



    WHAT IS THAT NOISE?
    The gunplay, and talking in between, in Death Wish 2 is presented in monaural Dolby Digital, and it is a fairly by-the-numbers presentation if there ever was one. Dialogue is clear and intelligible, without any sibilance, hissing, or other audio anomalies to interfere with the characters’ speech.

    Also, although I refuse to accept that guitar-legend Jimmy Page was actually responsible for this abominable score, the music used in the film is also reproduced quite cleanly. Overall, although the gunfire sounds a bit thin and lacks punch, and the soundstage is a bit confined, this is a respectable monaural track.



    EXTRAS, EXTRAS!!!


    Theatrical Trailer
    The theatrical trailer for Death Wish 2 is included.



    SCORE CARD

    (on a five-point scale)
    Movie: [​IMG] [​IMG]
    Video: [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]
    Audio: [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]
    Extras: [​IMG]
    Overall: [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]



    THE LAST WORD
    As far as presentation is concerned, MGM has treated the DVD release for tough guy Charles Bronson’s second outing as Paul Kersey rather kindly (in terms of A/V quality, not extras). However, since I found Death Wish 2 to be an unimaginative and suspense-less follow up to the popular and exciting vigilante story found in the original Death Wish, I cannot recommend this release to anyone but hardcore fans of either Charles Bronson or this franchise. This is especially true given that, despite the generally pleasing audio and visual quality of the film, the DVD is almost completely devoid of added value material.


    Stay tuned…



    Release Date:
    February 3rd, 2004
     
  2. Pike Bishop

    Pike Bishop Auditioning

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    Open-matte sucks! [​IMG] [​IMG]
     
  3. Michael Elliott

    Michael Elliott Lead Actor

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    Thanks for the great review Jason.

    It's rather shocking that the same director made this and the original. I think the graphic nature of the film is due to the many slashers that were making money at the time. The rather "tame" DEATH WISH wouldn't work when people were flocking to see stuff like FRIDAY THE 13TH. From the interviews I've read, both the director and especially Bronson were rather sick at how the film turned out. Apparently Bronson refused to let Winner direct a couple of his other films.

    I was able to view the disc earlier today and it is indeed the R-rated cut of the film. The uncut version is available on discs from Brazil and a couple other countries. The Greek VHS also contains an extra dialogue scene but I haven't seen this version. I believe this is the fourth DVD release and the only one to feature the R-rated cut. Three of the discs are "open matte" while one is 16x9.

    As for what was cut:

    The maid's rape scene is cut in two spots. I believe one extra guy rapes her in the living room and then the scene goes into the bedroom where we get more nudity and more rape. The next group of cuts happen with the daughter kills herself. In the R-rated version we just see the jump and land but in the X-rated version we get a shot of blood shooting out of her mouth.


    I've seen both versions and I can honestly say it was good that the director had to cut the film. These scenes go too far in the R-rated version and they are even worse in the X-rated cut. When the film was released in other countries, the director actually cut out more of the rape scenes than he had in America. He wasn't forced to do it but did so on his own will.

    As for the open matte business, I'm a die-hard Bronson fan and I'm really upset over these DEATH WISH sequels being released this way. I'm not expecting a 2-disc SE but at the very least we should get some sort of upgrade over the VHS and certainly other DVD releases. It's rather strange that MGM would release the first and second batch of Bronson titles with 16x9 transfers yet release these cult films open matte only. The last batch contained films like ASSASSINATION and MESSENGER OF DEATH so I'm going to guess that they might not have sold very well and MGM took the cheap way out with these. For some reason, X-15, an early Bronson film, is being released the same day with a 16x9 transfer. If this is a money issue with MGM, I seriously doubt any of their other Bronson titles would outsell these.

    Even worse is that MGM still owns several other Bronson films and many of them are 2.35:1 so hopefully people will e-mail MGM and let them know that this open matte deal isn't what we want.
     
  4. Markus Berger

    Markus Berger Auditioning

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    Hi,

    For all of you having a codefree player there is an uncut and unrated R2 release of Death Wish 2 available in Europe.

    The DVD is anamorphic in it's OAR and has english, french, italian and spanish Dolby Digital Stereo sound.

    The DVD is available in most online shops in France, Italy, Spain and the Netherlands.

    You can buy it for example at Amazon France.

    Markus
     
  5. Robert Dunnill

    Robert Dunnill Second Unit

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    I have several discs featuring both OAR and open matte MAR, and every time I've compared the two, the MAR version has some cropping at the sides.
     
  6. Paul Arnette

    Paul Arnette Cinematographer

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    If this forum really wants to push OAR advocacy, then why does it continue to review non-OAR DVDs?

    Believe me, I appreciate what you reviewers and this site do for everyone who frequents this wonderful forum, but, at some point, we have to show the studios we're serious. For the individual, it is not buying non-OAR titles, for the forum, I think the logical progression would be to not review non-OAR films.
     
  7. Brett C

    Brett C Second Unit

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    The R4 disc from Australia features the uncut version in a nice animorphic print, also its a double feature disc with the first film.
     
  8. Michael Elliott

    Michael Elliott Lead Actor

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    I think one problem is that many people don't mind open matte for some reason so they will be buying the disc no matter what's on it. As a reviewer, I guess these people want to know the V/A and if they should buy it or not. Someone could say not to buy it because it's open matte but outside this forum, I'm rather shocked at how many people don't mind open matte or simply don't understand it.

    Again, I'm a die-hard Bronson fan and have been throwing a fit over this for the past three months. I've been trying to complain about MGM for the past two years but very few people are interested. The site I usually post out feature a lot of Bronson fans and some are unhappy about the open matte releases while the others don't care. In the end, I'm pretty certain that everyone is going to be buying these ASAP.

    I've thought about this issue for various years but I really don't know what to do or say. If no one were to buy these films then that would mean poor sales, which would mean MGM wouldn't take the time to release their other Bronson films. If people do buy these then perhaps that gives MGM the idea that the majority doesn't care about open matte. Or, if a die-hard fan doesn't buy them then they are out of owning some of their favorite movies and it's very doubtful MGM would revisit a title like DEATH WISH 4. I could see them double dipping on DANCES WITH WOLVES, GREAT ESCAPE or RAGING BULL but films like DEATH WISH don't fall into that group.
     
  9. Jason Perez

    Jason Perez Second Unit

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    Paul,

    I respect and value your opinion, I really do. Further I agree with you philosophically, and I am an OAR advocate as well (but to a point, I guess). And yes, I do think that MGM releasing "widescreen" films in non-OAR only is an extremely absurd thing to be doing! At the very least, they should be giving people a choice!!! Maybe they haven't noticed that sales of 16x9 TVs have increased dramatically! [​IMG]

    However...this Forum is an informational tool for everyone interested in Home Theater, not just "OAR snobs" like me, or people that are fortunate enough to already have 16x9 HDTVs. Indeed, you see noobies popping up around these parts all the time. Do these "non-widescreen" people not have the same right to information about DVDs, and home theater information in general, that we do???



    A short time ago, I was an ignorant fool when it came to home theater. I really was! Then I found this site, and people like yourself, who were accepting, cool, and quick to offer helpful hints or equipment suggestions, even though I had a 4:3 TV at the time [​IMG] !



    I know too many people that are still in the dark ages of "foolscreen", and I think that not reviewing a 1.33:1 release of a widescreen title is not really going to send that big a message to the studios to avoid doing it. On the other hand, what it might do is exclude people from our "little club", and that is something I am unwilling to do! Exclusion is not the answer. Once people become educated about what widescreen is really all about, and how a non-OAR presentation totally F's up the director's intent, people will start letting the studios know what they want with their wallets. Well, at least in a perfect world that would happen...



    Unfortunately, we walk a really fine line in our quest for all releases to be OAR. I think the very eloquent Michael Elliot said it best:
    "If no one were to buy these films then that would mean poor sales, which would mean MGM wouldn't take the time to release their other Bronson films. If people do buy these then perhaps that gives MGM the idea that the majority doesn't care about open matte. Or, if a die-hard fan doesn't buy them then they are out of owning some of their favorite movies and it's very doubtful MGM would revisit a title like DEATH WISH 4. I could see them double dipping on DANCES WITH WOLVES, GREAT ESCAPE or RAGING BULL but films like DEATH WISH don't fall into that group."

    This might sound like sacrilige, but if the only way I can get a film I absolutely love is in a non-OAR, then I will still have to buy it!!! Bottom line, if I love a particular title, I want to have access to it whenever I want to watch it, even non-OAR, if that is the only way I can own it. That being said, at the same time, I will also start e-mailing, calling, or otherwise annoying anyone I can at the studios to try and get them to go back and do it right!

    Hopefully, you understand where I am coming from. Thanks for expressing your opinions, and believe me, it is an honor to write reviews for you!!! Your appreciation of our work for this site means a lot to me! Keep up the good fight, and keep supporting the Forum!!!

    Regards,

    Jason
     
  10. Gary->dee

    Gary->dee Screenwriter

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    Heh, I remember seeing this movie in the theater with my older brother when it first came out. To me DW2 falls into a specific genre I categorize as 'early 80's low budget L.A. shlock'. Another franchise that fit into this category was the Angel series, the one about the hooker that seeks revenge. These movies, along with many others, focused on the seedy L.A. underground, mostly around the Hollywood area. Basically the way I equate them is with the way Hollywood blvd actually was at the time when they were filmed, a very dark, dirty place filled with pimps, pushers, addicts, hookers, gangsters, punk rockers(not today's pop variety, the real sort), runaways, etc. Not a pretty place back then, they've cleaned it up a bit now though.

    Another movie I'd also lump together into this category is Repo Man, but that movie was actually good because it didn't take itself too seriously.
     
  11. JonZ

    JonZ Lead Actor

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    I want this soundtrack SO BAD!!!!
     
  12. Paul Arnette

    Paul Arnette Cinematographer

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    Jason,

    First, thank you for valuing my opinion and taking the time to write a very well thought out and informative reply. I am especially grateful that you take my comments as constructive critism, and realize the regard I have for HTF reviewers and their reviews.

    The question of OAR advocacy is difficult one, especially when you come to this point:


    I admit that even I have a few titles that fall into this category; these were acquired, for the most part, earlier in my tenure in the hobby. However, as my interest in film grows along with my knowledge and collection, I have started to have to make tougher decisions on what to buy. One easy decision I have found is by asking myself: is this film OAR? If not, then I don't buy it. The wife and I would have like to have added new Annie DVD to our collection, but we did not buy it because it wasn't OAR.

    The difficulty with which one can make a decision like this is definitely proportional to how much one likes the film in question. That is something personal, and no one can tell you, or expect you, to not buy it simply because it isn't OAR, I understand that. If the original Star Wars trilogy made its way to DVD in pan-and-scan format only, believe me, I would buy it, grudgingly. Fortunately, that is not a decision I have been forced to make recently.

    However, rare cases such as the, hopefully, hypothetical one described above aside, I myself can't worry that my not buying a non-OAR title might indicate disinterest to a studio. For me, the feeling of having settled and bought an inferior product is much worse than that potential message.

    What may help serve to inform people of the availability of non-OAR product, yet educate them in the process, is to include a statement atop each DVD review in question that the disc is not OAR, meaning not the way it was meant to be seen in the theater, in bold font and then include a link explaining OAR and its importance for education purposes. This could be done in every instance where a film has MAR DVD release that is not director approved. Just a suggestion for HTF review crew. [​IMG]

    Finally, and I am glad to see you did not do this in your review, and to my knowledge I have not seen it in any HTF review, but I would absolutely cringe if I ever saw the words 'Recommended' or 'Highly Recommended' attached to a review of a non-director approved MAR disc. [​IMG]

    Thanks for all your hard work making this forum the best of its kind on the Internet.
     
  13. Jeff Adkins

    Jeff Adkins Screenwriter

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    I agree but in this case there are OAR versions available in other regions.

    Jeff
     
  14. Bill Parisho

    Bill Parisho Stunt Coordinator

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    Great review! I couldn't agree more about the film. The original Death Wish was a really well made film with believable characters. Remember how in the first movie,the Paul Kersey character doesn't take up arms right away. In fact,the first time he fights back against an assailant,he actually gets sick!
    The problem with the second movie (and subsequent sequels) is that the original storyline is reintroduced and our hero just goes around like a killing machine. DW2 actually made me angry. I almost became a vigilante!
    Anyway,keep up the insightful reviews.
    Bill
     
  15. Vince Maskeeper

    Vince Maskeeper Producer

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    So what region has an uncut, oar and NTSC version?

    Is there one?

    -vince
     
  16. Jeff Adkins

    Jeff Adkins Screenwriter

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  17. Brett C

    Brett C Second Unit

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  18. Jeff Adkins

    Jeff Adkins Screenwriter

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    Did Columbia release it in R4? How is the transfer?

    Jeff
     
  19. Brett C

    Brett C Second Unit

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    Yes Columbia did release it in R4, and the transfer is I'm sure the same used for the uncut version elsewhere as it contains multiple language soundtracks and subtitles.
     
  20. Shawn_KE

    Shawn_KE Screenwriter

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    Is there going to be a Death Wish box set of the 4 movies?
     

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