The villain in Death Wish: The Face Of Death looks so much like “Rowdy” Roddy Piper I wonder what the real Hot Rod could’ve done with the same role. God knows he would’ve been an improvement over his inept doppelganger, Michael Parks, who can’t generate heat to save his life.
Mild-mannered architect Paul Kersey (Charles Bronson collecting an easy paycheck) is now a professor with a changed last name (he’s in the Witness Protection Program presumably because of the mostly hilarious events of the ludicrous Death Wish 4: The Crackdown). Once again, he’s found love. This time, he’s fallen for British fashion designer Olivia (the lovely Lesley-Ann Down). But she’s trouble. Her ex-husband Tommy O’Shea (Parks) is a notorious New York mobster who won’t let her go. He’s hijacked her entire operation and has his cartoonish goons shake down her competition for “protection money”. (Shouldn’t they just buy them out of business?)
Tired of his meddling ways, she agrees to testify against him in a possible court case. (Preposterously, he has already eluded the authorities for 16 years. Trust me, he ain’t that clever.) Somehow, one of Tommy’s hired assassins, a cross dresser with a dandruff problem (I’m not kidding), brutally rams her head several times into a restaurant bathroom mirror just moments after she accepts the cursed Kersey’s marriage proposal during a dinner date.
Realizing that it’s a bad idea to call the district attorney (the always good Saul Rubinek in a nothing role) because someone is always listening in, Kersey tells him over the phone that Olivia’s changed her mind. But when he makes a surprise impromptu visit to his home, he tells the D.A. she will still take the stand.
Unsurprisingly, the word still gets back to Tommy and you can guess what happens to poor Olivia. With her young daughter Chelsea (Erica Lancaster) now back in the custody of the impotent crime boss (which partially explains why his marriage fell apart), Tommy absurdly keeps his ex-wife’s fashion line going. Two words: stripper wear. His attire is no better than Olivia’s less than spectacular designs.
Now thoroughly pissed off, Kersey springs back into action. God knows the cops aren’t getting anywhere. (When one of Olivia’s bullied factory employees wears a secret wire to try to get some incriminating comments on tape, the results are predictably disastrous.) One by one, Tommy’s pathetic henchman get dispensed with rather easily. The most fitting method: death by cannoli.
As Tommy and his men keep going back to that same church for funeral after funeral, it takes him a ridiculously long time to finally view Kersey for the serious threat that he is. His idea of setting a trap is so transparent, though, Kersey has absolutely nothing to worry about.
Neither does Chelsea who has no problem escaping the clutches of her deadbeat dad. (She’s one of the only female characters in this series who doesn’t need the protection of a man.) Tommy O’Shea is such a weak heel (like numerous other moments in the film, Parks is laughable at times) it’s extremely difficult to accept him as an intimidating toughie. He’s supposed to be this scarily violent, misogynistic racist but Parks is too sleepy to bring out the character’s edge. And why is this Irish-American trying to sound Italian? Who’s he trying to impress, exactly?
Death Wish: The Face Of Death has the dubious distinction of being Bronson’s final movie. (He would end his 50-year career with a trilogy of TV movies.) I’ll say this for it. It’s not as bad as Death Wish 3.
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Sunday, September 11, 2016