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Death Wish II (Vinegar Syndrome) UHD/Blu-ray Review

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    Ian Jane
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  • Death Wish II (Vinegar Syndrome) UHD/Blu-ray Review

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    Released by: Vinegar Syndrome
    Released on: April 26th, 2022.
    Director: Michael Winner
    Cast: Charles Bronson, Jill Ireland, Vincent Gardenia, Anthony Franciosa, Robin Sherwood
    Year: 1982
    Purchase From Amazon

    Death Wish II – Movie Review:

    After the raving success of Charles Bronson's 1974 smash hit Death Wish (which supposedly reduced the crime rate slightly in New York City while it was playing!) it seemed inevitable that there would be a sequel. However, it took the producers awhile to get Bronson to agree to it so it wasn't until eight years later, in 1982, that the second film in the series eventually materialized.

    Bronson had worked with director Michael Winner a few times before, not only in the original Death Wish but also on Chato's Land, The Stone Killer, and The Mechanic - all of which had done solid box office. But this time the usual violence that Bronson's films were becoming known for was pushed quite a bit further. For this reason, the filmmakers had to severely cut the rape scene featured so prominently in the film lest the MPAA slap it with a dreaded X rating.

    Death Wish II picks up shortly after the first film in the series ends, with Paul Kersey (Bronson) now living in Los Angeles trying to rebuild his life with his daughter Carol (Robin Sherwood). She still suffers from mental trauma relating to the death of her mother. One day Kersey and his new girlfriend Geri (Bronson's real life wife, Jill Ireland) take Carol out for some fun. Of course, Kersey ends up getting mugged by a gang of punks. He fights back but ultimately they escape. Unfortunately for Kersey though, they get his wallet and now know who he is and where he lives.

    In order to get back at Kersey for foiling their mugging attempt, the gang breaks into his home and brutally rapes his maid, Rosario. After that, they abduct his daughter and brutally rape her which ultimately causes her to commit suicide. When Kersey learns this, he finds that old habits die hard and he once again takes justice into his own hands. It isn't long before he heads out on a one man mission of vengeance to do onto those responsible for these transgressions what has been done to him.

    Bronson once again shines as Kersey, putting in an intense performance as the stone faced vigilante and uttering one liners ('Do you believe in Jesus? Now you get to meet him!') with impressive conviction before shooting those he would do away with. He's quite believable not only because of his outer tough guy persona but also because with merely a simple look he's able to also portray a great sense of sadness and loss. Bronson is constantly putting his disheveled and weathered facial features to good use in this role. Despite the sad puppy appearance he's got going on in the film, however, the movie is not wanting for action or violence. The body count mounts fairly quickly and although he may have been starting to show his age at this point in the game, he was still quick on the draw and merciless in his style.

    The rest of the cast is a mixed bag. Jill Ireland is mediocre as the love interest. This was the norm for most of the films that she made with her husband. Most of the cast members that play the punks are a little too hammy for their own good (keep your eyes open for a young Laurence Fishburne as one of the rapist punks!). Vincent Gardenia is enjoyable reprising his role from the first movie as New York City detective Frank Ochoa. He's sent in to help the LAPD when they find out that circumstances surrounding the recent vigilante activity closely resemble those that occurred in NYC a few years back and it’s fun to see him back in the part.

    The whole thing is set to a swanky, sleazy sounding rock instrumental score by Led Zeppelin guitar virtuoso Jimmy Page. This complements the movie perfectly and gives a bit of an edge to the film that it wouldn't have had with a different score. The music here has actually aged quite nicely and it works very well on its own even when listened to outside the context of the film which it was composed to accompany.

    MGM's original Blu-ray release of Death Wish II mirrored the DVD in that it was the R rated cut of the film and was not the uncut version. Most of the edits to that version occurred during the home invasion scene during the rape of the maid (most of the violence was missing from this scene as was some of the more graphic sex), and then later during the rape of Kersey's daughter (which was also heavily cut). Additionally, when she jumps to her death, the clip where she is impaled on the fence and then spits out blood was missing. Despite these omissions, the film was still pretty strong stuff. A few years later Shout! Factory released in North America the proper unrated version of the movie that reinstated this footage and thankfully that same cut is what has been used for Vinegar Syndrome’s UHD release.

    Death Wish II – UHD Review:

    Death Wish II comes to UHD in an HEVC encoded 2160p 4k transfer with HDR10 “newly scanned & restored in 4K from its 35mm original camera negative” and framed in its proper 1.85.1 widescreen aspect ratio. Picture quality is fantastic. There are a few spots in the movie where whites look a little too hot but thankfully these are the exception rather than the rule. Detail hits reference quality levels throughout the presentation, really enhancing depth and texture in pretty much every shot. The colors generally look fantastic and we get nice, inky black levels (and no noticeable crush) as well. Skin tones always look appropriately lifelike and natural and the image, thankfully, always looks like film. As such, there’s the natural grain you’d expect to see but virtually no actual print damage to note here at all, save for a few small white specks now and then that most probably won’t even notice. The transfer is free of even a trace of visible noise reduction or edge enhancement and there are no visible compression artifacts here at all.

    The 24-bit English language DTS-HD 2.0 Master Audio mix on the disc is also very good. Everything is clean, clear and nicely balanced. Optional subtitles are provided in English only. The mono audio sounds excellent, clean and properly balanced and still giving a decent amount of depth to both Page’s score and the sound effects. Gun shots pack a nice punch and there are no issues to note with any hiss, distortion or sibilance in the mix.

    Extras, which are concluded on the accompanying Blu-ray disc (which uses the same new restoration) not the UHD, start off with a feature length audio commentary with author and historian Paul Talbot. Like all of Talbot's Bronson commentary tracks, this is good stuff. He goes into loads of detail about the film's distribution history, why we don't see the Cannon Films logo at the beginning, changes that the screenplay went through over time, details on the different cast and crew members that appear in the movie, notes on where Bronson's life and career was at when the film was made, the different locations that were used for the film, details on Page's score, where the movie differs from the script, the brutality of the rape scene in the movie and why Winner made it as graphic as he did, the film's censorship history, how a lot of the background characters we see in the skid row scenes were locals rather than professional actors, who did what behind the scenes, the different weapons used in the film and loads more. Pretty much anything you'd want to know about Death Wish II is covered here!

    Also included on the disc is the Death Wish 2 Television Cut. This version, which is restored in 2K from its 35mm interpositive, clocks in at 95:31 and it's in very nice shape with 24-bit DTS-HD 2.0 Master Audio and optional English subtitles presented in AVC encoded 1080p and framed at 1.85.1. As it was prepared for television broadcast it's devoid of any profanity and almost all of the stronger violence has either been heavily edited or completely removed. It does, however, contain some extensions to certain scenes, mostly just additional dialogue, that is exclusive to this cut.

    There are also some interesting featurettes included here, starting with Pass, an interview with screenwriter David Engelbach. He speaks here for just over five minutes about how he originally passed on writing the script for Menahem Golan when he offered it to him, why he changed his mind, how the film did quite well when released, the importance of the film to Cannon Films during this period in time and what he tried to bring to the story to differentiate it from the first movie while still tying it into the original film.

    Working with Bronson is an interview with actor Robert F. Lyons that runs for seven minutes and sees him speak about meeting with Winner and what he was like as a director, his thoughts on the script, the appeal of working with Bronson and what he was like to collaborate with on set, the appeal of the Death Wish films to audiences and the themes that the movies explore.

    Dark Parts is an interview with actress Robin Sherwood that runs just over eight minutes. She talks about not knowing much about the first Death Wish as she was too young to see it, but knowing the name when she was asked to go in for a role in the sequel. She then talks about her character, the difficulty in shooting certain scenes, knowing that there were very dark parts to the movie, working with Winner and Bronson and how nice everyone was to her on the shoot.

    Fights In The Theater is an interview with Todd Roberts, son of executive producer Bobby Roberts, the runs for seven minutes and covers the impact and controversy that surrounded the release of the first Death Wish movie, how fights broke out in the lines and in the theaters when the first movie played when certain audience members took offence to aspects of the film, Bobby Roberts' New York roots and the problems that the city had with crime in the seventies, the patchwork aspect of the second film and how it does and doesn't tie into the original, the use of very strong violence and rape in the second film and needing to trim the movie to get an R-rating and the film's box office success.

    A theatrical trailer, menus and chapter selection options round out the extras on the disc.

    As far as the packaging for this release goes, Vinegar Syndrome offers up some reversible cover sleeve artwork and, for the first five thousand copies purchased directly from Vinegar Syndrome’s website, a super awesome limited edition embossed slipcover designed by Robert Sammelin.

    Death Wish II - The Final Word:

    Death Wish II is a rough and nasty revenge thriller, especially in its uncut form as presented here, that isn’t afraid to push the audience far enough to ensure that they side with the film’s vigilante hero. Bronson is in fine form here and the supporting cast is solid as well. Vinegar Syndrome’s UHD release looks and sounds fantastic and features a nice selection of extra features, highlighted by a proper HD version of the TV cut and an excellent commentary track. Highly recommended!


    Click on the images below, or right click and open in a new window, for full sized Death Wish II Blu-ray screen caps!

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