Starring: Robert Bronzi, Daniel Baldwin, Richard Tyson, Eva Hamilton
Directed and Written by: Rene Perez
Running Time: 1 Hour 27 Minutes
Reviewed by: Dan Oles
I’m a sucker for nostalgia and I’m not alone. The opening synth strains got my attention and when the lead stepped out of the shadows it was almost like stepping back in time. Even if the Bronson-alike doesn’t quite sound like the legend he bears undeniable resemblance to he’s got the swagger and the veiled smile down pat. Not since the Bruce Lee impersonator movies of the seventies have I seen a gimmick like this and it’s novel enough by itself, but accompanied with similar direction, music, and dialogue it’s really something special. There’s a few updates to the seventies formula which feel more like eighties sensibilities verging on modern aesthetics. The colors are pushed bright and vibrant, the squibs are huge to near comical degrees of carnage, and there’s a lot of artsy moments of depth of field earlier cameras wish they could have managed. Over all the world of Death Kiss is similar to another film It Follows in which the time period is undefined and seems to blend several eras into a sort of eternal vision of the past with elements of the present (like the occasional smart phone). It’s fitting and sits right for this kind of homage.
And it is an homage: not a parody. The title and the nature of this movie made me think I was in for a spoof but they did go to some effort to make what amounts to a modern Death Wish adaptation, complete with interludes courtesy a firebrand talk radio host who elaborates on the scenarios. There is no overt goofs to really be found beyond the dry wit of the vigilante and that itself wouldn’t sound out of place in an original seventies revenge flick. This is the benefit of remaking a production on a limited budget that originally had smaller budgets themselves: the transition is not abrupt. The sheer unapologetic nature of this film might offend some people, but that’s the beauty of a throwback film. Since everyone is so serious and the tone is so solemn throughout Death Kiss could easily be regarded as an unintentional comedy, made all the more entertaining because the joke is never given away by winks at the camera.
There’s some legitimately awesome little action beats that aren’t direct parallels to Death Wish specifically. A fight in a junk yard has a deliberate cinematic flair and shows off the resourcefulness of not only the star of the piece but the director/writer.
They didn’t just make a tribute to a classic type of film. This is a loving attempt to recreate one.
For the downsides of the film there’s some really obvious automated dialogue replacement (ADR) going on with crystal clear studio retakes not quite matching lip flaps. Every line of the star is dubbed and obvious, but it was a bit charming how the laconic K’s lines are all resonant and slightly distant from the world around him. Some may disagree and find the disconnect jarring.
The ludicrous amount of the red stuff seemed excessive even for this kind of movie, especially if it wanted to evoke the seventies when squibs were comparatively more realistically small. The sleazier moments of the movie seemed completely in place for a Bronson movie especially where the bad guys were almost always characterized as nearly demonic so that the vigilante could slaughter them with impunity. Like Death Wish, when Death Kiss appears to be reveling in grunge and cruelty it’s really just a set up for the catharsis of our anti-hero blasting holes in the irredeemable criminals his world seems to have an abundance of.
The major complaint I have is the length. Halfway through Death Kiss it feels like a satisfying conclusion to an intense confrontation so continuing on doesn’t quite feel as pithy as a movie like this perhaps should be. There’s also a smattering of questionable acting, but none of it is distracting to the point of disrupting the story and atmosphere. There’s some down time of characters just talking quietly to one another, but this falls right in line with the genre where moments of intense action were staggered by dramatic sequences. It feels accurate even if a contemporary audience may be confused as to why in a movie ostensibly about shooting bad guys there’s so many moments of introspective sob stories and monologues.
Everyone making this film seemed to be having the time of their lives. From villains to heroes there’s a lot of intense emotions to display and of course the Bronson-alike is cold, cool, and has a lot of great moments.
This is fond memories of a forgotten genre delivered in the best way possible I’d argue: with the same love for it behind the camera as in the seats. Someone grew up with Bronson and thought he was the coolest son-of-a-gun and wants you to think the same thing.
And by the end of Death Kiss, you just might agree.
Anti-Hero The Motion Comic Series
Episode 1 (Watch for Free!) :https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qmmouuBlWTk&t=49s