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‘Death Wish V: The Face of Death’

By Richard Harrington
Washington Post Staff Writer
January 15, 1994


Allan A. Goldstein
Charles Bronson;
Lesley-Anne Down;
Robert Joy;
Michael Parks;
Chuck Shamata;
Kenneth Welsh
brief nudity and prolonged agony

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Kersey -- foiled again!

Yes, Paul Kersey, the original urban vigilante, is back in "Death Wish V: The Face of Death."

And on this, the 20th anniversary of his first attempt to take a bite out of crime, or preferably to blow it away, Kersey is still played by Charles Bronson. This is unfortunate because, Grecian Formula and body corsets notwithstanding, Bronson looks like one of those sculpted potato heads and moves with appropriate grace. This is not the face of death; it's the face of old.

After moving west for several sequels at the behest of NYPD, Kersey is back in Manhattan, ready to rumble after the usual provocations. This time around, Kersey's fiancee (Lesley-Anne Down, making like Lesley Ann Warren) runs a fashion house; she gets roughed up by one of her mobster ex-hubby's psychotic goons, and is later killed by two others, which gives Kersey a quick four targets. The anger contained in his wrinkled face produces this leading question from the police: "You're not thinking of going back to your old ways?"

This is akin to asking, "Is the pope Catholic?" and is certainly redundant in any film with a Roman numeral in its title, the increasingly decrepit Michael Parks in the role of the chief bad guy, and the increasingly annoying Saul Rubinek as a good guy (the district attorney who, like everyone else in New York, seems to know Kersey is a homicidal vigilante).

For his part, Kersey decides everyone has the right to remain silent, forever. He ensures this through ingenious methods of execution: One bad guy is cannolied to death, another falls to a jury-rigged soccer ball, yet another to dry-cleaner's plastic. An acid bath, steam press and cloth-shredder also figure along with the usual gunplay. At the end, there is an opening for yet another sequel, though producer Menahem Golan may have to set it in a Florida or Arizona retirement home.

Somehow, writer-director Allan Goldstein has managed to make a film that looks and feels older than its original mold. Even the dark film stock looks like 1974, not 1994. In terms of audiences, this may be the ultimate death wish. When some bad guys mistakenly think they've blown Kersey away, they gloat that "he's history."

Paleontology is more like it.

"Death Wish V: The Face of Death" is rated R for brief nudity and prolonged agony.

© Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company

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