The Curator of Schlock #8 by Jeffrey Shuster
If you haven’t figured out by now that the face of death is Charles Bronson, there’s no helping you.
I want to make something clear. When Death Wish 5 The Face of Death was released theatrically, it was under the moniker of Death Wish: V The Face of Death. It was bad enough that we got stuck with the Roman numeral V instead of just a plain old 5, but when it got released on DVD, they removed the number entirely so all we’re left with is Death Wish: The Face of Death. This is unacceptable. Removing the numeral ignores the legacy of Death Wish 2, 3, and 4. This movie is Death Wish 5. Don’t let anyone tell you any different. On to the review that isn’t a review.
September was supposed to be Death Wish Month here at The Drunken Odyssey. The trouble was I didn’t realize we were still in August when the review for the first Death Wish went up. This meant I had to review Death Wish 5, and I’ve been avoiding Death Wish 5 for many years nown. It’s the Death Wish movie that even Death Wish fans hate. But I promised myself that September would be Death Wish Month so here we go.
In Death Wish 5, we find Paul Kersey (Charles Bronson) in the witness protection program. His name is now Paul Stewart, but I’ll keep on calling him Paul Kersey for the rest of this review because I’ve been calling him Paul Kersey for every other review. Anyway, Kersey is getting his life back together. He’s dating a beautiful fashion designer named Olivia Regent who also happens to have a cute little girl. And he’s posing as a professor of who-knows-what. They don’t say. They don’t really say why he’s in witness protection either. It might have something to do with those two drug cartels he wiped out in Death Wish 4: The Crackdown, though this goes unmentioned.
Anyway, Kersey’s girlfriend’s ex- is, obviously, Tommy O’Shea (Michael Parks), an Irish mobster in the Irish Mob. O’Shea’s main way of earning is going over to business owners in the New York Garment District and shaking them down for money. If they don’t comply, bodily harm is usually the result in the form of electric saws to the stomach and hands shoved into hot presses. For some reason, Kersey thinks it’s a good idea for Olivia to become an FBI informant and get Tommy O’Shea sent to jail. This results in Olivia getting her face smashed into a bathroom mirror by one of O’Shea’s goons. Undaunted, Kersey still convinces his girlfriend to testify against O’Shea, which results in her get shot in the back before falling to her death.
Later, O’Shea beats up Kersey and steals his little girl back. O’Shea’s man in the FBI reveals that Paul Kersey is the vigilante killer from years back. For once, the criminals in these movies grow a brain and start taking precautions against Kersey. Of course, these precautions do no good. Whether it be poisoned cannolis or exploding soccer balls, O’Shea’s men die one by one. One even gets juiced by an electrified fence because what would a Death Wish movie be without a degenerate getting electrocuted to death. The movie ends with Paul Kersey knocking Tommy OShea into an acid bath where we get to see him dissolve in excruciating detail.
Death Wish 5 came out in 1994, which might account for its lameness. The Death Wish movies of the 80s were an exercise in excess. Every nightmare scenario from street thugs taking over the world to drug dealers killing our children was played out in those schlock masterpieces. Looking at them now, one wonders how anyone ever took them seriously. But the 90s were a new decade and those kinds of excesses were no longer welcome. Death Wish 5 demands us to take it seriously and falls flat as a result. And thus this series fades away when it should have burned out.
Oh well. At least we got to see “the most brutal hit and run in film history.”
Jeffrey Shuster (episode 47) is an MFA candidate and instructor at the University of Central Florida.