Death Wish V: The Face of Death

This evening I had the choice of shoving a fork in my eye or sitting through “Death Wish V: The Face of Death.” I think shoving a fork in my eye would have been less painful. The only thing older than this tired series is its star, Charles Bronson, who looks utterly helpless in this muddled mess that proves you can have too much of a mediocre thing.


deathwishHey, I loved the first film. I even tolerated the second and third entries. Four was pushing it, but “The Face Of Death” sinks to new lows. Most noticeable is the absence of director Michael Winner, who guided Bronson through his paces in the first three films. Writer-director Allan A. Goldstein pales in comparison. His set-up and pay-offs are pedestrian and uneventful, pretty much like his direction of the actors. You would think that a “Death Wish” film could direct itself at this point, yet Goldstein stumbles at every conceivable opportunity.

The film lack anything resembling emotion. It’s hard to root for character’s you can’t connect with. Everyone in “Death Wish V” seems to be going through their paces, liked old, tired trained seals who go through the hoop because they know there’s a fish waiting at the other end. Bronson’s performance is almost non-existent. He’s there, but there’s no pulse. Who can blame him. He was probably thrilled with the opportunity to work, but dreaded doing yet another “Death Wish.” I mean, how much crap is one man supposed to take, anyway? His character, Paul Kersey, is like Death’s doorman.

Get too close and you die. You would think that after the third film he would discourage any sort of romantic entanglement. It’s like marrying James Bond. You come in. You make nice-nice, and then you die. It’s that simple. So it totally amazes me in “Death Wish V” that Kersey is not only back in his old stomping grounds of New York, but he’s also in love with fashion designer-former model Olivia (Lesley-Anne Down, looking more haggard than H. Rider). It’s a match made in heaven.

He needs a reason to use Viagra, and she’s into leather this year. Olivia also has a daughter from her former marriage to mobster Tommy O’Shea (Michael Parks, still sailing on the goodwill he created in “From Dusk Till Dawn”). O’Shea and his goons run a protection racket which is making life difficult for the business owners of the fashion district, and especially for Olivia. So when Olivia is killed by O’Shea’s men, Kersey once again takes the law into his own hands, much to the dismay of District Attorney Tony Hoyle (Saul Rubinek) and Police Lieutenant Mickey King (Kenneth Welsh). Instead of just shooting the bad guys, Kersey hits them where they live.

One guy eats poisoned cannoli, while another has an explosive soccer ball blow up in his face. It’s all pretty rudimentary, lacking any real drama or suspense. Goldstein doesn’t just telegraph scenes, he lights up road flares and waves them at you. Bronson looks lost most of the time, and for a real hoot, check out his expression during the scene where he proposes to Olivia. He looks like he’s on pain killers and vodka. The production values suggest that “Death Wish V” was made for cable.

There’s the pre-requisite amount of harsh language, bare breasts, and blood, but not much more. Too bad there wasn’t more scenery, because Parks can’t seem to chew through it fast enough. He’s bad all right, but not in a villainous sort of way. I like Parks, but not in this film. There’s very little to like in “Death Wish V.” It seems opportunistic at best. Just because it stars Charles Bronson and features “Death Wish” in the title doesn’t guarantee quality. Quite the contrary. Any film with the words “Death Wish” and “V” in the title should be a dead giveaway. Now does anyone know where I put that fork?

COMPLETE CHECK-UP

VISION: [ ] 20/20 [ ] Good [ X ] Cataracts [ ] Blind

Not only is “Death Wish V” a bad film, so is the DVD’s digital transfer. Delivered in full frame (more evidence that the film wasn’t shot for theatrical release), “Death Wish V” looks flat and dull. There’s sharp contrast in the quality of the images. Some are vivid, while others lack detail and depth of field. The color saturation is muted and unflattering, while the flesh tones are acceptable but not exactly natural. The original negative isn’t in the greatest shape, leading to a number of compression artifacts. The blacks are okay but not solid. The interior shots also look warm. Definitely not a work of art.

HEARING: [ ] Excellent [ ] Minor Hearing Loss [ X ] Needs Hearing Aid [ ] Deaf

The Ultra Stereo soundtrack is dreadful. First, except for Terry Plumeri’s musical score, the rear speakers are totally wasted. Even the front split was disappointing. I found myself turning up the volume to hear the dialogue better, and then four or five chapter stops later, rushing to find the remote to lower the volume. It’s up. It’s down. The sound goes up and down more than Monica Lewinsky. It’s also filled with annoying ambient noises, plus some dreadful Foley sound effects like fake footsteps. Don’t expect booming basses. Hell, don’t even expect left-right front speaker definition. Just be glad you can hear the damn thing.

ORAL: [ X ] Excellent [ ] Good [ ] Poor

Closed captions in English, and subtitles with French and Spanish.

COORDINATION: [ ] Excellent [ X ] Good [ ] Clumsy [ ] Weak

The customary main and scene access menus, plus the original theatrical trailer. As an added bonus, click on the Trimark logo on the main menu for the following bonus trailers: “True Crime,” “Phoenix” and “Love & a .45.”

PROGNOSIS: [ ] Excellent [ ] Fit [ ] Will Live [ X ] Resuscitate [ ] Terminal

Rent, but only if the DVD of “101 Things to do with Paste” is already rented.

VITALS: $24.95/Rated R/95 Minutes/Color/30 Chapter Stops/Keepcase/#6919D

ATTENDING RESIDENT: John Larsen

PATIENT: DEATH WISH-THE FACE OF DEATH

BIRTH DATE: 1994

HMO: Trimark Home Video



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