So I mentioned last month that the Death Wish franchise is actually based off of books. Death Sentence is the second book in the series, but because we just looked at the movie of the same name, it’s fresh on our minds. The name is of course, pretty much where the similarities end.
Written by Brian Garfield, the author of the original Death Wish book. He was unhappy with the way the original movie ended, so he wrote his own sequel a year later. In many ways, it seems like he’s trying to work out his own second amendment issues in these novels and more than once, you get a whiff of cognitive dissonance here.
While technically a follow up to the novel, in many ways it reads a spin-off to the film. In either way, it’s well done. This feels less like a sequel and more like a second chapter, or third act. Indeed, it almost immediately feels like what I always expected a Death Wish story to be.
After the events in New York, Paul has moved to Chicago, but it hasn’t stopped his vigilante urges. Both the cops and the criminal element soon notice that the Vigilante has moved and the manhunt begins. Along the way, Paul falls in love again but soon realizes he must choose between being the vigilante or having a life with this woman. And even while the street crime rate drops, things are complicated further when copycat killers begin to emerge.
This is a fascinating read, with greater detail about the Vigilatne’s methods. We explore how he acquires guns, hides then and stalks. We get greater insight to the politics in the police department and how they want to handle it, and in general, both pro and anti gun sentiments are handled well (though Garfield makes his leanings clear).
It’s a harder book to find these days. Death Wish was reprinted in time for the remake, but this book didn’t get the same treatment (I managed to snag a kindle version using a gift card from a costume contest last year). It’s actually the superior of the two Death Wish Novels and worth hunting down.
I bet you didn’t know that James Wan directed a Death Wish film did you?
Actually, that takes some explaining.
You see, there’s actually a sequel to the Death Wish book. The author, Brian Garfield, wasn’t entirely happy with the way the film turned out and wrote Death Sentance to rebut it and continue Paul’s story himself. 32 years later, there’s a film adaption (I know. I don’t get it either).
This is actually a pretty impressive cast. I mean Kevin Bacon is fine, and James Wan is always the mark of quality. Fun to see Aiesha Taylor from Who’s Line (Although, Man does she look a lot different than usual! That severe pullback hair doo…)but you show me John Goodman I am on board! Goodman is brilliant by the way, as the gang mentor – it’s a bizarre performance and totally unlike anything else I’ve seen him do before. I am consistently in awe of this man’s range.
Interesting, for the first time the main characters is accountant (Which was Paul’s profession in the novel, not architect) though he still hasn’t got the same name from the book.
We’re well into the movie when we get to our tragedy. Using the old flashing-headlights-initiation-killing urban legend is a really interesting way of updating for the 21 st century. I’m glad that we are going up against street thugs once again. After a few films of the vigilante going out to the mafia, I like that we’re going back to basics. Death Sentance has created a street gang with all the charisma and distinctive look from the first Death Wish films, well making them distinctly modern.
What’s interesting is Kevin Bacon succeeds everywhere that Bruce Willis failed for me. I completely buy his internal conflict, how difficult it is for him to begin his revenge. I totally accept his reluctance and clumsiness with his weapon (indeed, the early kills are almost accidental) and it makes sense because this is a revenge drama and not an action like the 2018 Death Wish was. It’s important to remember this because it doesn’t move fast like an action film does, or like a Death Wish film does. There is a great deal more attention paid to the family dynamics – with the family member who has been killed, and Bacon really sells it in one of the best performances I’ve ever seen from him. When we had a home invasion, I’d swear we’re at the end of the third act when in actuality it’s only the second and the third act is just beginning.
It’s that last 30 minutes, and I kind of wish that it had come earlier. But come back to the original premise – this really isn’t a action movie, it’s a revenge drama. Sure there are some action elements, but that’s not the thrust of the film.
It’s worth waiting for though, very much worthy of the Death Wish legacy. By the way, fans of The Crow are going to notice A great deal of influence from that here too. Someone needs to get James Wan on that reboot Because this film convinces me he’s the man for that job.
There is a greater sense of finality in this film, something that I never truly feel from the Death Wish movies. That may actually make it the most fitting way to end this marathon. I’m glad I saw it, I’m glad I saw all of them. It was long overdue.
Aw crap. What do you mean I didn’t see ALL of them? and why are you speaking in German? (*sigh* We’ll be back with more)