Death Wish 2, Death Wish 3, Death Wish 4 : The Crackdown : (Blu-Ray)
FOX releases these 3 sequels from the hugely popular DEATH WISH series starring iconic tough guy, Charles Bronson, for the first time in High definition on the home video front. The 3 films were all released on August 14, 2012. Instead of reviewing them individually, I have compiled my thoughts into one page, for your convenience and mine.
DEATH WISH 2 - (1982) - Directed by Michael Winner - IMDb
1982 produced the first sequel in the DEATH WISH franchise, the aptly titled, DEATH WISH 2. Michael Winner, once again directed the action, with a story that supposedly takes place just 5 years after the events in the first film. We once again join Paul Kersey, who has since moved from New York, and has been living for the past 2 years in Los Angeles. Kersey has put the past tragedy behind him and now works as a building architect, he also has a new, girlfriend, Geri, whom is a radio personality, and his daughter, Carol, although, now rendered mute, seems to be improving in her recovery each day. Life seems to be going good for Kersey now, but as the old saying goes, "If it looks too good to be true, then it probably is". Kersey would come to realize this the hard way, when he arrives home one day to find his housemaid, raped and murdered, and his daughter, kidnapped by a gang of hoodlums. Unfortunate also for Kersey, is that they kidnapping of Carol would additionally lead to her death during an escape attempt. Following the 2 deaths, just like the previous incident, the Police have very little information, and even less enthusiasm. This of course eventually leads to Paul Kersey once again revealing that side of him which, until now, he has tried very well to keep under wraps. Kersey once again assumes the position of civilian, turned vigilante, as he single-handedly sets out to eliminate those responsible for the deaths of Rosaria and Carol - one by one!
DEATH WISH was a franchise that, as it progressed up the number chart, it's sequels good less and less serious in favor of more campy silliness, Whereas, DEATH WISH from 1974 was the most serious(with only a small hint of what would later come in the series), when in got to 1994's DEATH WISH 5 : THE FACE OF DEATH, the story was quite tired, and just plain cliche at that point, making that film, in my opinion, the worst of Paul Kersey's adventures. With this in mind, starting with DEATH WISH 2, that is one things kind of got a little less serious, and had a small campy vibe to it. In this film, the killings were a little more exaggerated, ans over-the-top, with instances such as victims reacting like they'd been hit with 100 bullets instead of one, and so on. But to me, it was still kind of somewhat, still serious in nature. In terms of plot, it is more of the same thing, and is essentially, a rehashing of the first film. Except in this film, it's Kersey's beloved foreign housekeeper in place of his beloved wife, and once again, his daughter, who barely survived the last attack, is also.....once again, a victim. Unfortunately for Carol Kersey, she did not survive this attack. No, as we see her impaled on a fence after she nearly escapes capture. So to put it simply, if you've seen the 1974 original(especially if you watch it before this one), it will somewhat feel as though you are just watching the same story retold, only with some new characters in it. However, it stars the irreplaceable Charles Bronson, who makes the film fun, and definitely worth seeing, no matter how similar it may be to the last one. Bronson is one of those classic tough guys, and he is just cool on any screen. While we are unsure in real life if he could, his films made us believe that the man could kick some ass! Many of Bronson's film's helped this notion, but the DEATH WISH series really gave him a true screen persona. There isn't an action fan that I know, who doesn't know the DEATH WISH films!
In my opinion, I think that DEATH WISH 2 is a great follow up to the original. Sure, while it isn't as solid, or shocking as the original(mostly because we had already seen this type of thing in the original), as a gritty action film, it's fun, and more of what most liked from the first film, only it's amped up just a little.
I have seen the first 3 DEATH WISH FILMS, many times, but never in High Def. When talking about DISH WISH 2 in particular. On this Blu-Ray release, the picture quality is at least 3 times clearer than any previous DVD release that I have seen. The film's original grain is still intact, and seems to have not been altered by such post production processes like the often dreaded, Digital Noise Reduction(DNR). Like many old releases brought on to the High Def format, which were shot on film, the presence of grain fluctuates throughout the course of the film, with some scenes featuring heavier noise, while in others it's pretty "routine" But to sum it up, the transfer of DEATH WISH 2 is not that bad, with all things considered.
In terms of special features, the film's theatrical trailer is the disc's only extra.
DEATH WISH 3 - (1985) - Directed by Michael Winner - IMDb
In DEATH WISH 3, Architect Paul Kersey goes back to his home state to visit Charlie, an old war buddy, which he met years ago while serving in the Korean war together. But what was to be a joyful reunion of old friends, turns deadly, as Charlie is murdered by one of the city's toughest street gangs. The murder occurs as Paul arrives at Charlie's door, so the Police and it's chief, Richard Shriker, mistakenly nail Kersey for the crime. But fortunately for Kersey, Shriker recognizes him as the crime fighting vigilante from years ago, and with the crime rate now at an all time high, Shriker can't resist making a deal with Kersey. Shriker agrees to let Paul walk free, but only under one condition, he must return to his old ways, only this time, he works for the cops. Shriker says that Kersey must report every action he's responsible for, while occasionally allowing the Police to take credit for a take down or two. Of course Kersey agrees, but he never really had the intention of honoring the agreement. Instead, he embarks on an urban war to take down the street punk gang and their menacing leader Manny Fraker. But as Kersey comes face-to-face with Fraker and his crew, he finds himself outnumbered in a battle that is seemingly not to be won. But fortunately for Kersey, in a bizarre turn of events, more than a few of Charlie's neighbors within hid apartment complex, along with Shriker himself, band together to lend a gun-toting hand.
1985's DEATH WISH 3 is one that tends to always catch some flack, flack that usually comes from people who just can't appreciate a good, explosive B-Movie. Yes, it is likely that those who enjoyed the original, who go into this one expecting the same seriousness, will not like the third installment. Why you ask? Well, it's because it is the one film in the series that is the most removed from the original. Where DEATH WISH 2 showed little signs of camp here and there, DEATH WISH 3 has it in spades. This film is one that is truly over-the-top. It has more enemies, for Kersey to face off with, more weapons for Kersey to use, and more fiery explosions. Kersey is now fighting against a gang, with a nasty leader in Fraker, and to do so, he's packing head. He has weapons such as a custom-made Magnum that would make "Dirty Harry" envious, a machine gun, and even a rocket launcher, which is a big step up from just a single revolver. With this said, as you might've guessed, DEATH WISH 3's man focus seems to be the action, whereas, the previous installments had some focus on plot in addition to. The film plays out like a live action comic book or graphic novel, it's silly, it's outrageous, and some might call it stupid, but for B-Movie lovers like myself, it is a damn good time! When seeing DEATH WISH 3, you are better off just forgetting what went on in the previous sequels, and just have fun with this one as is. Personally, I would like to believe that it was made with the intention of being bad, while at the same time being good, you know? In a campy sort of way. Although I haven't seen it in awhile, this film sort of reminded me of the camp nature of EXTERMINATOR 2.
So in short, DEATH WISH 3 is silly, outrageous and fun. Yes it is a change of pace from it's predecessors, but on its own, it has all of the ingredients that (usually) make up a successful B-Movie; lots of guns, boobs, and things that go "boom". Don't take it seriously, just have fun with it!
As for the film on Blu-Ray, in contrast to DEATH WISH 2, most of the grain present, appears smoother/softer. I'm not sure if this was just the natural look for the film, or if it had been "corrected" on not, but the overall picture on the disc is soft much like the previous DVD releases. This is not to say that it looks bad, because it doesn't. But when compared to DEATH WISH 3, there is slightly less detail.
Like the previous disc, the only feature is a theatrical trailer.
DEATH WISH 4 : THE CRACKDOWN - (1987) - Directed by J. Lee Thompson - MDb
In DEATH WISH 4, Paul Kersey is now back in Los Angeles, and is once again working as an Architectural consultant. It seems as though a few years has passed since the last episode, and Paul is now back to a normal life, witch a new girlfriend, newspaper writer, Karen Sheldon. The two have seemingly shared a lengthy courtship, and so Karen's young teenage daughter, Erica like she was one of his own. Unfortunately, as it is often within the life of Paul Kersey, tragedy strikes again, when Erica suddenly dies from a cocaine overdose. And like many times before, this angers Kersey to the point that he is compelled to hunt down the dealer responsible. Kersey does just that, but unfortunately, there were people who saw the whole thing go down. One of those people in particular, just so happens to be Karen's millionaire boss, Nathan White, the owner of the paper, which she works. White is pretty straight to the point with Kersey, he saw him gun the dealer down, and plans to turn him in, unless, Kersey agrees to help him. As it turns out, White's daughter also died of an overdose recently, and he wants revenge - and wants Kersey to get it for him. While wants to take down the source of the city's drug traffic, and has singled out 2 different rival crime bosses. Ed Zacharias and Jack Romero. Kersey eventually goes undercover under a number of guises to get to Zacharias and Romeros' men, and soon notes of the two "families'" intense rivalries. The cunning Kersey uses this to his advantage, as soon he has the two groups aiming for each other in one final showdown. But for Kersey, what appears to be an open and shut assignment, as the situation becomes much more complicated than it once seemed, when it appears that someone was one step ahead of Kersey himself from he very beginning.
As I said with DEATH WISH 3, with that particular installment, things took a less serious turn, even more so than ever before in the series. With it's follow up in 1987, it was apparent that they wanted to take things back a step into the territory in which the series once was. With this film, to do this, they took a new approach, out was the series' primary Director, Michael Winner, and in his place was J. Lee Thompson. Also, the film had a more serious script from screenwriter, Gail Morgan Hickman, who gives it an edge which some could consider, "dark", is it deals with drug dealers who cater to the city's youth. But still, the film has that trademark campiness, and the often the death scenes are over-the-top.
In my opinion, DEATH WISH : THE CRACKDOWN(the first film in the series to have a subtitle), is a film that is slightly uneven. I loved how the film started out really campy as things revolve around teenage Erica's (Portrayed by the adorable, Dana Barron) death. The arcade setting, the hammy drug pusher, and of course the outrageous way he dies atop the electrical wiring of the bumper cars - year it was great fun. But once Paul gets hid assignment, the film turns more so into a B-Movie equivalent of De Palma's SCARFACE. Sure it is still fun, but I just didn't think it matched up with the film's great beginnings. In my opinion, it could very well be the change of Director, where Michael Winner was familiar with the character, having directed 3 previous films, J. Lee Thompson seems to direct things more heavy handed, Winner, know just when to exaggerate things, and when to keep things serious. Here, things such as Kersey blowing "White" away with a rocket launcher in the end, just seems a bit too much in my opinion.
Overall, DEATH WISH is still a worthy addition into the series, and to it's credit, it's story has a little more originality to it, with a few twists included. But technically it is still similar to the rest of the films. No one should ever get close to Paul Kersey, especially beautiful women, because chances are....they'll likely turn up dead. But in any case, it's still a decent effort, one that is miles better than the film that would later follow, 1994's DEATH WISH 5 : THE FACE OF DEATH.
On this particular Blu-Ray release, the picture quality is pretty crisp, and i'd say tt's the film that is the most clear visually of these 3 releases. But then again, it is also the newest
The disc also features the film's theatrical trailer as an extra.
OVERALL IMPRESSION OF THESE RELEASES
FOX releases these first 3 DISH WISH sequels on Blu-Ray for the very first time. The results are altogether decent, but unfortunately, the individual releases lake any supplemental materiel, and it would've been nice to get some newly produced special features, pertaining to each. So with this said, the releases are pretty much all about the fact that the films themselves are in high definition, and on that end, i'd say that these releases are worth having. One reviewer on Amazon claims that at least DEATH WISH 3 is in a cut form, but honestly, I couldn't imagine that being so because the death scenes are all pretty graphic. To close, yes, I would recommend these 3 FOX releases to any DEATH WISH fan. With these releases, I only up that PARAMOUNT will soon follow with a Blu-Ray release of the 1974 original.