Charles Bronson has returned! Well, sort of, as uncanny-alike Hungarian actor Robert Bronzi violently wanders through the city’s grubbiest streets removing one undesirable after another. Murderers, pimps and drug dealers are dispatched with consistently inexpressive ferocity as ‘The Stranger’ carries out his bloody rampage. His motive? Unclear. His past? Vague. The plot? Largely unnecessary.
Writer and director Rene Perez is on a mission to resurrect 70s exploitation movies through paying homage to Bronson’s most iconic film. And in many ways he succeeds. Death Kiss is a violent, uncompromising film that plays like a period thriller from forty plus years ago. Bronzi broods reverentially as he fills Bronson’s large shoes with impressive ease, although the physical resemblance does most of the work and the dubbing grows increasingly suspicious as the film progresses. The generic bad guys are generically unpleasant enough to warrant the extreme reaction doled out to them, and a little heart is provided by Eva Hamilton as Ana, who The Stranger supports with brown paper bags full of cash. In many ways Perez has achieved what he set out to do, but in drawing so much inspiration from this one particular sub-genre his film creates its own problems.
Bronson’s Death Wish (1974) was ‘of a time’, and as fitting a film as it may have been in the era it was released, a nostalgic ‘ticking off’ of boxes feels a little uncomfortable at times. This awkwardness is embodied by Daniel Baldwin’s talk radio jock who rants intermittently throughout the film about the state of society like some agitating preacher. Passionate diatribes about how the law enforcement agencies are more interested in domestic violence reports rather than drug dealers miss the point rather. Baldwin’s character is clearly there to add some context to The Stranger’s welcomed actions, but succeeds solely in creating a mental table of which crime is more heinous than another, as if it’s okay to knock around your wife a little as long as you’re not selling marijuana from your front porch.
If a little 70s retro-violence carried out in memory of the great Charles Bronson sounds like your sort of thing then Death Kiss will certainly satisfy your cultural cravings. Lacking in depth and as fleetingly forgettable as it is formulaically flawed, Perez’s film does exactly what it sets out to do without pushing any genre boundaries.
DEATH KISS / CERT: TBC / DIRECTOR: RENE PEREZ / SCREENPLAY: RENE PEREZ / STARRING: ROBERT BRONZI, DANIEL BALDWIN, RICHARD TYSON / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW (USA)