Revenge is a theme in movies that you’ve seen a million times. Some of the best action movies are about one person’s quest for revenge. Hell, there’s a 2018 movie CALLED Revenge, which I hear is excellent. This week, revenge is the name of the game in Peppermint, starring Jennifer Garner. From the trailers, Peppermint looks like it could be called Lady Death Wish, as it seems to be just as violent and maybe just as racist.
For this week’s They Called This a Movie, we decided to look at the franchise that gave Charles Bronson’s career one final twinkle of relevance. We watched Death Wish V: The Face of Death, which was not only the final film in the franchise, but also Charles Bronson’s last theatrical film.
If you’ve never seen the original Death Wish from 1974, it’s a very simple story about a guy whose wife is murdered and his daughter raped during a home invasion, so he takes the law into his own hands by killing people that… might have done it? He basically just goes around killing would-be muggers that he finds in ample supply of the very shitty New York City of the 1970s. Seriously, that place was a cesspool. But the film itself is one of those gritty, cult films that could only be born during that time and place.
For Death Wish V, Paul Kersey is avenging the death of his now-deceased fiancee, Olivia, a fashion designer and a woman with putrid taste in men. Olivia’s ex-husband, Tommy O’Shea, is one of the biggest crimelords in New York and he’s using her fashion business to launder his money. When Paul confronts Tommy to put a stop to the operation, Tommy threatens Olivia by having one of his goons cut up her face. When she turns states witness, he has his guys finish the job. It’s up to Paul to take some of that sweet, sweet revenge on Tommy and his thugs, the only way he knows how: by… indiscriminately murdering them all.
After 20 years, 71-year old Charles Bronson is still playing Paul Kersey in the fifth Death Wish movie, which would be his final film released to theaters. And his age is showing in this movie. While the stunts were never high level in any of these movies, it’s obvious that the kills in this film were taking into account that the lead actor was 3 years short of the US male life expectancy of 1994. The first two hitmen he knocks off his kill list are killed by a poisoned cannoli (while he calmly reads a newspaper) and a remote-controlled soccer ball. Not exactly the most thrilling of scenes. And that sentiment carries throughout the film.
The movie is just kind of boring. It reeks of a movie that probably could’ve went straight-to-video, starring a guy that probably should be retired, or at the most, doing commercial spokesperson work. Charles Bronson, not the greatest actor in the world is phoning it in throughout the film, which is fine for a septuagenarian, but not a lead actor. Michael Parks does what he can with a very hammy role as the villain O’Shea, but he feels like he may be the only one that’s actually trying.
Another thing: I know the Death Wish films aren’t exactly high art, but when does vigilantism stop becoming such and start becoming straight up murder? I mean, this guy goes around killing people for five movies? I don’t care if each person was a murderer and rapist, after two movies, the cops should really be doing more to stop you. In this universe, Paul Kersey kills 116 people over a 20-year span. Can you imagine that? The cops just kind of let him do it. And it’s obvious this guy is a sociopath. In this film, he’s not just shooting people, he poisons one guy, blows up another, nearly suffocates one, and throws O’Shea in a bath of bleach. That’s some fucked up shit that he’s doing, and I get it: his fiancée was just killed, but man, it’s hard to root for him in this one.
This movie is a bit of a snooze. It doesn’t help that Charles Bronson is way too old to be doing these sorts of movies by this point and that the original Death Wish probably didn’t need one sequel, let alone four. Michael Parks plays it sleazy, but there’s nothing quite here that would make me recommend it. It’s not terrible; you won’t hate yourself, but you can skip it without feeling like you’re missing anything.