17th Sep2018

‘Death Kiss’ Review

by Phil Wheat

Stars: Robert Kovacs, Daniel Baldwin, Richard Tyson, Eva Hamilton, Stormi Maya | Written and Directed by Rene Perez

DEATH-KISS-poster

As if having one of his films, Playing With Dolls, released in the UK as Leatherface wasn’t bad enough (though not his decision but rather the UK distributors), Rene Perez has gone all out with his latest movie, in “homaging” other exploitation films – in this case Charles Bronson and Death Wish – with Death Kiss. Perez’s latest film features Charles Bronson doppelganger Robert Bronzi (here billed as Robert Kovacs), who previously appeared in another Rene Perez film From Hell to the Wild West, as a vigilante with a mysterious past who goes to a crime-infested city and takes the law into his own hands, trying to rid the city of crime whilst at the same time protecting a young mother and her child.

Death Kiss lays out its cards from the get-go, even before the title-card has rolled: this film looks, feels and sounds like its stepped out of another era – complete with synth score, a radio shock-jock denouncing his city (how long has it been since you saw one of those in the movies?) and a hero the says little but whose actions, and by actions I mean killing people(!), speak louder than any words could.

Whilst at first glance Death Kiss could be misconstrued as parody of the Bronson-starring series, it is much more than just a cheap throwback to the late 70s/early 80s vigilante films. It is instead  a note-perfect pastiche of a genre, and a franchise, who’s own remake actually seems like a cookie-cutter sacchrine parody in comparison. There’s a brutality in this movie, and not just in our protagonists actions, that is reflected in the look of the film – loosing the Hollywood gloss which Bruce Willis’ film had in spades and reflecting the dark, gritty storyline perfectly.

Surprisingly, Perez’s film also picks up right where the original Death Wish film left off in terms of political and social commentary – social commentary which you’d expect, these days, would not apply. But it does. The same degradation of societal values, the same concerns of the citizens: a lack of faith in the police, the feeling like everything is spiralling out of control, the same things that applied to the mean streets Charles Bronson’s Paul Kersey walked apply to society today. Nothing’s changed. And Death Kiss reflects that entirely – if society hasn’t changed then why should the movies?

Whilst I enjoyed Perez’s film immensely what let’s Death Kiss down is the seeming lack of connection between our protagonist and his victims, with no real reason for his vigilantism – but then that wasn’t that REALLY the case in the latter Death Wish films? Well, that was when the filmmakers weren’t completely reaching for reasons to have their vigilante hits the streets again! But that’s a small gripe for a film that succeeds where Eil Roth’s remake failed.

In terms of storytelling, Death Kiss is very much like Death Wish 3 and the two sequels that followed, with Robert Kovacs sombre killer mirroring the Rambo-esque actions of Bronson’s character in the Cannon Fims era: playing hero rather than playing vigilante; and its all the better for it. Those Cannon-era Death Wish films were crowd pleasers (and not critic pleasers) and that’s exactly what Perez has made in Death Kiss – a crowd pleaser that fans of Death Wish, and vigilante films in general, will really love. I did.

Easily Rene Perez’s best movie, so far, Death Kiss comes to digital/VOD on October 2nd, with a DVD to follow on December 4th, courtesy of Uncork’d Entertainment.

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