This one finishes off the series, it’s a goodbye to Paul Kersey and to Charles Bronson for those who aren’t gonna watch the three FAMILY OF COPS movies (the only thing he made after this). I’ve read that Bronson had Alzheimer’s, but he seems completely with it and in good shape.
The year is 1994, Paul has another girlfriend with another daughter. Like part 4 they don’t get mugged or raped, but like all DEATH WISH movies they’re in serious danger. This time Paul runs afoul of the Irish mafia, specifically his girlfriend’s crazy ex-husband Tommy O’Shea (Michael Parks, aka Sherriff Earl McGraw from FROM DUSK TILL DAWN, KILL BILL and both GRINDHOUSE movies). We find out Paul is in witness protection now, not on the run, and he calls an old friend at the D.A.’s office (Saul Rubinek) to help him with O’Shea. But of course that makes things worse, so Paul finds himself sneaking around picking off mobsters. It occurs to me that makes it kind of like a slasher movie where you root for the slasher. Oh well.
This installment’s strength is its colorful characters. Parks is a great villain, very eccentric, making odd faces, mumbling to himself, sinisterly amused by some joke even his own men aren’t in on. And he kills a mannequin, for which he will suffer dearly.
The other most memorable character is Robert Joy (the guy with the burned face in LAND OF THE DEAD) as Freddy Flakes, a schizophrenic hitman who is introduced in drag, is obsessed with security, and suffers from severe dandruff. (Seriously, they make a huge deal about his dandruff.) Paul goes after him with a radio control soccer ball. So we are pretty far away from the tone of part 1 at this point.
The soccer ball scene is great, but my favorite is when Kersey poisons a mobster’s connoli in a restaraunt. As the guy is violently choking to death Paul comes over with a big smile on his face and asks if something is wrong. His delight is hilarious.
This is a fun movie, but honestly it feels more like it should be a new Charles Bronson character than another Paul Kersey adventure. The other sequels have more purpose in the overall series. Part 2 is a rehash, a first attempt at continuing the story. Part 3 takes that story to its logical conclusion, showing how ridiculous it is. Part 4 ups the ante, shows him graduating from petty street thugs to higher level criminals behind the conditions that make those guys proliferate. But this one doesn’t progress at all. It’s mobsters again but with a more personal connection again.
I might be alone on this one, but I enjoyed this entire series. I’m not sure if there’s another series with 5 movies and I enjoyed all 5 in their own way. This is a miracle of exploitation filmmaking.
And looking back over these 5 movies – god damn, poor Paul Kersey. His wife was killed, his daughter raped into catatonia. Then his housekeeper was raped and killed, his daughter kidnapped and raped and impaled in an escape/suicide. His war buddy was murdered, his neighbors killed trying to do something about it, his new girlfriend blown up. His next girlfriend’s daughter O.D.’d, then she herself was shot to death. Then the girlfriend after that had her face slashed and fell to her death. I mean, this guy should stop talking to other people. Too dangerous. In a way this is a happy ending to the series, because the daughter is still alive at the end. We never have to find out what horrible thing happened to her.
The climax takes place at the dead girlfriend’s clothes factory, which hopefully was shut down by OSHA afterwards. They have an open pool of acid, a machine that can grind a man into meat, a machine that plastic wraps a guy. I mean it’s just not safe.
At the end Kersey struts away and, his back turned to the camera, says to contact him if you need any help, then it freezes. He looks so confident and so content. Nobody to avenge (except Jeff Goldblum and the other creeps from part 1). This is a good way to remember Kersey and Bronson. He’s inside a factory, but he’s pretty much riding off into the sunset. And you know what Paul? I’ll take you up on that. I will contact you if I need any help.
VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.