[Junesploitation ’21] Mini Reviews: Death Wish II (1982) and Avenging Force (1986)

Mini Review
Day 15: Sequels!
Death Wish II (1982)

Is there really a better place to look for films that fit today’s prompt of ‘sequels’ than the library of Cannon Films? Probably but let’s take a look at Cannon’s sequel to the 1974 film Death Wish with Death Wish II (1982), which sees the return of Charles Bronson as Paul Kersey. This sequel pretty much defines the term ‘exploitation cinema’, its brutal in nature, violent and doesn’t shy away from showing sexual assaults in full. Needless to say this film and this review has a content warning, because it can be triggering for survivors of sexual assault.

After the events in New York from Death Wish, Paul Kersey (Charles Bronson) relocates with his daughter Carol (Robin Sherwood) to Los Angeles to start fresh, she’s receiving therapy and he has a partner Geri (Jill Ireland). Things seem to be calm in life for Paul, however a run in with some street thugs changes things, as they track him down via his stolen wallet and commit unspeakable crimes towards his maid and daughter. Paul puts his vigilante skills back to work to track down the thugs and unleash punishment as only he can.

Death Wish II is a misery of a film, very brutal and not at all apologetic in how misogynist it actually is. A lot of the violence is towards women, the violence turns to rape and it shows this all very graphically with men who act like complete clowns and one has to wonder who this film was actually meant for? Women are stripped of everything, their clothes, their dignity, their innocence with no sense of purpose other than to show these acts and their naked bodies, while the men stay mostly clothed up and shoot each other. To say this film doesn’t like women is almost an understatement, where they are really only used as a device to further the plot. Geri and Carol are the only real prominent female characters and they don’t have much to do at all, the relationship between Geri and Paul is much like a dried up lake, nothing there. Jill Ireland at least gives an honest performance and is perhaps the shining light in this darker than dark film.

Charles Bronson sleepwalks through this role, in some serious moments where he learns tragic news, he acts so nonchalant about it and it’s almost ridiculously comical. There are moments when something comes in and there’s a spark of care within the performance but those are few and far between. As hate filled as the film is, its portrayal of a grimy Los Angeles actually works in its favour, it feels like a land of no hope, which suits the film. Death Wish II is not a film I would personally recommend, the original is certainly more worth your time.

Rating:

Mini Review
Day 16: Cannon!
Avenging Force (1986)

One could call Avenging Force (1986) Cannon Film’s version of The Most Dangerous Game (1932), but also a precursor to Van Damme’s Hard Target (1993) and even the more recent The Hunt (2020). This is where we are for Day 16 of Junesploitation with ‘Cannon Films’ as the prompt, Cannon is a running theme with exploitation, but this is what they did and never apologised for. Avenging Force was originally conceived as a sequel to Invasion USA (1985), but with Chuck Norris unavailable they changed the age of the character and brought in American Ninja (1985) stars Michael Dudikoff as Matt Hunter and Steve James as Larry Richards.

The film focuses on a right wing militia group called The Pentangle, who find and capture men to hunt and like sport and kill. Matt Hunter is a retired agent and our lead character with Larry Richards who is running for Senator. They get caught up in the groups scheme as The Pentangle target Larry and end up killing one of Larry’s son at a Mardi Gras parade and then later kidnap Matt’s younger sister in order to lure Matt to be the hunted.

Avenging Force is a fun action film, it does have some serious elements (a child is shot and killed, another kidnapped) but they are handled well and do progress the story being told. The action set pieces are quite impressive and were no doubt quite dangerous to do, plus the pairing of Dudikoff and James is a strong aspect as the pair did work well off each other. The villains of the piece are over the top, but did we expect anything less from a Cannon Film? These are the types of villains you want to see meet a bloody ending, while their performances aren’t necessarily good but they do work for the film.

This is definitely upper tier Cannon, it’s a mostly compelling film with two strong leads and delivers on the action. It’s portrayal of political sides is a massive exaggeration that reflects the time it was made, it was mid 80s America and things were certainly changing. This one is highly recommended for action film fans and Cannon fans in general, at the end of the day its an enjoyable film that is an easy watch.

Rating:

Reviews written by Marcella Papandrea

Please check out FThisMovie.net, with many thanks to the crew for the concept of Junesploitation and some excellent prompts for 2021!

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