Death Wish 2

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While Clint Eastwood starred in a bunch of violent action and crime thrillers throughout the 70s and 80s, he made enough equally successful films in different genres to ensure he had plenty of other options. The success of Death Wish meant there would inevitably be a sequel and Charles Bronson got sucked into this world for much of the rest of his career, playing tough guys who take the law into their own hands (with the notable exception of The Indian Runner). Death Wish II is neither as bad as you think it’s going to be nor any different from what you would expect. What?

Bronson returns as Paul Kersey, still recovering from the events of the first movie. He has moved with his daughter to LA and has a relationship with a new lady friend. On a routine day trip, Kersey has his wallet stolen. Chasing down one of the perps (and getting a good look at him) he decides to count his losses and let go. The crooks of course have other ideas, needlessly deciding to go to Paul’s home to loot and rape some more. His daughter is kidnapped, his maid is killed, and he is left for dead. Carol (Paul’s daughter) is plucky and manages to escape, only to dive out a window and impale herself on a fence – woopsy.

Kersey goes on another rampage, tracking down the gang members one by one and sending them to hell on the back of a bullet. There’s a sub-plot about the cops in LA and NY getting together to decide what to do about Kersey but it’s not overly important. The cops aren’t made to look 100% incompetent, but still this is a movie about personal vengeance and not letting the man get in you way. Kersey doesn’t come across as a soulless killer or some unstoppable machine – he’s just a guy with a gun and a plan. My main issue with the movie isn’t the violence or the cloudy message, it’s more the motive and the emotional side of things. I get that you want revenge when someone you love is killed, but Bronson doesn’t seem that phased by it. I get that this is supposed to be a macho movie with blood and snarls and no tears, but a little more emotion wouldn’t go amiss.

But then it wouldn’t really be the same movie, would it? Charles Bronson weeping over the body of his child, shrieking at the heavens for forsaking him. Twice!? All we want to see here are bad guys getting slaughtered, no questions asked, no remorse, and that’s what we get. Bronson does what he does, working his way through petty scumbags like Lawrence Fishburne and Thomas Duffy, and getting a few knocks along the way. Jill Ireland is there for the glam purposes, and everything looks authentically seedy. Some parts appear to be a little too glamourized for their own good, but that’s another grey area. Then there’s the soundtrack. As big a Led Zep and Jimmy page fan as I am, the soundtrack is mostly a mess. I’d heard the soundtrack long before I’d seen the movie and… well, I don’t have much to say about it to be honest – as my dad would say ‘it’s just noise’.

So, Death Wish II. It is exactly what you think it is – if you like that sort of thing there’s no reason why you wouldn’t enjoy this. If that’s not your sort of thing, then stay away. It isn’t Bronson or Winner’s finest hour but it’s still a perfectly fine, well enough made revenge thriller. Let us know in the comments what you think of the movie and the series as a whole.

Best Actor – 1968

Official Nominations: Cliff Robertson. Alan Arkin. Alan Bates. Ron Moody. Peter O’Toole

Cliff Robertson picked up the official win this year for the title role in Charley, based off Flowers For Algernon. It’s a decent enough performance although contemporary audiences will likely feel uncomfortable watching the outdated but honest portrayal of a mentally handicapped person trying to ‘better himself’. The win was controversial as many outlets and detractors saw it as another example of the soliciting of votes rather than a deserving victory. Alan Arkin does well in an early role, ironically similar to that of Robertson but in an altogether darker movie while Alan Bates does his best Russian impression in The Fixer. Ron Moody stands out in posibly the most recognizable performance of Fagan while Peter O’Toole is rather plain in the rather plain Lion In Winter.  All of the films nominated for Best Actor this year were based on a book or a play in another sign of Hollywood clinging to the old ways.

My Winner: Ron Moody

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My Nominations: Steve McQueen. Christopher Lee. Lee Marvin. Toshiro Mifune. Duane Jones. Charles Bronson. Zero Mostel.

An entirely different line-up for me this year, with 7 nominees making up my list. Although McQueen also starred in The Thomas Crown Affair this year, it is his commanding and cool performance in Bullitt which garners his nod. McQueen did a lot of preparation for the role, rattles off the dialogue in a matter of fact, whip-smart way, and of course did many of the stunts himself. Christopher Lee takes on a rare good guy role in The Devil Rides Out, one of countless similar horror films he starred in, but one whose quality stands over most of the others. Lee commands as expected, and gives as regal and refined a performance in a horror movie as you’re ever likely to see. Lee Marvin and Toshiro Mifune both get nods for the same movie as they star as two shipwrecked soldiers on opposing sides in WWII who must work together to survive. Marvin gets more screen time as a lead than many other more well known performances, while Mifune gives probably his best performance outside of his Japanese movies. Duane Jones gives a timeless, earnest, and yes, regal performance in Night Of The Living Dead inadvertently becoming a counter culture and civil rights icon while Charles Bronson has possibly his best role in Once Upon A Time In The West. Finally, Zero Mostel is hilarious as the greedy, scheming Bialystock in The Producers. This is a tough choice for me as I feel all are worthy winners.

My Winner: Charles Bronson

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Who is your pick for Best Actor of 1968? Let us know in the comments!

Charles Bronson (November 3, 1921 – August 30, 2003)

Charles Bronson
 
Charles Bronson had a long and varied career, earning various medals for his services as a pilot in WWII and afterwards moving into Television and Movies as a respected actor. With his distinctive voice and face, he was often cast as an outcast, loner, or hard man in Westerns and action movies, but always earned the sympathy and respect of characters and audiences.
Feel free to leave your memories and thoughts of Charles Bronson in the comments section.
Rest In Peace.
 
‘I guess I look like a rock quarry that someone has dynamited’