I suppose it’s fitting that Charles Bronson’s final theatrical feature has the words “DEATH” and “WISH” in its title, though it would have been sweeter for him to have gone out with the thoughtful supporting role he played for director Sean Penn in THE INDIAN RUNNER.
Well into his seventies by the time DEATH WISH V: THE FACE OF DEATH went before the cameras in 1993, Bronson had some help carrying the sequel from the fine actor Michael Parks (FROM DUSK TILL DAWN), who deliciously plays the antagonist. Writer/director Allan A. Goldstein, a replacement for DRUM and BIG BAD MAMA director Steve Carver when production moved to Toronto, ramps up the tension by making the kills more creative. Why just shoot the bad guys when you can blow them up with an exploding soccer ball, suffocate them in Saran Wrap, or knock them into an acid pit?
Once again, it doesn’t pay to be Bronson’s love interest in a DEATH WISH movie. Paul Kersey (Bronson), again trying to leave his vigilante past behind him, has to go back to work when his fashion designer girlfriend, played by Lesley-Anne Down (THE GREAT TRAIN ROBBERY), is brutalized by goons working for her ex-husband, Irish mobster Tommy O’Shea (Parks). Boom! Here come the dynamite soccer balls and poisoned cannolis. Bronson seems to be working harder than usual the fifth time around in an attempt to bring genuine drama to a DEATH WISH sequel. Kersey kills fewer people than in earlier movies. In fact, he doesn’t even get started until half the film has gone by.
Bronson also receives quality support from Saul Rubinek (AGENCY) as a district attorney whose experience working with Kersey brings him to feel as helpless working within the system as Kersey does. DEATH WISH V suffers from cheap production values, but Goldstein and Bronson’s efforts to tone down the wild action sequences in favor of human drama shouldn’t be ignored. It’s an unexceptional movie that has still been underrated a bit.