Movie Review: "Death Kiss" (2018)
When I first saw the trailer for Death Kiss, I literally couldn’t comprehend what my eyes were taking in. Charles Bronson died in 2003, after all. How the hell is he starring in a new vigilante justice actioner?! What is this black magic? Is it merely impressive animation?
Nope. It’s Hungarian actor Robert “Bronzi” Kovacs (a.k.a. living, breathing proof that everyone has a doppleganger). Writer/Director Rene Perez (Playing With Dolls series) pulls off a real coup here, finding the ultimate lookalike for one of action’s most legendary names. The resemblance isn’t just uncanny; it’s legitimately creepy. Never before in the history of cinema has someone managed to be so physically convincing as to bring an actor back from the dead. It’s eerie.
The Stranger (Robert Kovacs; From Hell to the Wild West) is a man of few words with an obscenely powerful handgun. He walks the streets, righting wrongs and saving innocents in gouts of bright red blood. Sex traffickers, drug dealers, robbers- they all breathe their last at the hands of The Stranger. Meanwhile, Ana (Eva Hamilton; Ruin Me) and her wheelchair-bound daughter, Isabel (Leia Perez; The Obsidian Curse) have been receiving bounties of cash delivered to their mailbox by The Stranger in acts of kindness that balance the books on his vigilante lifestyle. He soon targets drug dealer, Tyrell (Richard Tyson; Kindergarten Cop) in a series of near-misses that escalate into all-out war.
While the physical resemblance is indeed eerie, Kovacs is no Charles Bronson. His lines are voiced over in a screamingly obvious fashion that lends some silliness to the proceedings, but it’s not a deal breaker. The first act is a disconnected string of street justice shootings and minor exposition on Ana and Isabel. There’s no emotional investment or cohesion. The reveal of his motivations for helping Ana and hunting Tyrell comes too late in the game to serve as anything except an “oh, shit!” moment. It would have been much better served in the early goings, thereby making Death Kiss something with a little more punch.
The news isn’t all bad, though. The spirit and visual vibe of the Death Wish series (especially the ‘80s sequels) is lovingly homaged. That’s what Death Kiss truly is when it’s all said and done- a love letter to a series that clearly influenced Rene Perez in a major way. The look is gritty, grainy, and dirty. These are the mean streets, and the criminals who have the misfortune of meeting The Stranger are hideously nasty creatures. Everyone dies in fountains of blood that would have Quentin Tarantino clapping. Casting Tyson and Baldwin, both ‘80s and ‘90s bad action mainstays, is a lovely touch.
Lending intended moral punch to the proceedings is Dan Forthright (Daniel Baldwin; Harley Davidson and the Marlboro Man). He spouts his rhetoric on his radio show, “Justice Radio”. His ramblings are pure vigilante fuel and more than a bit idiotic, but Baldwin gives it cheesy best in glorified cut scenes that enforce a message that can’t be discerned…but it is fun to watch, in a car crash sort of way.
Still, it’s all about the Bronson doppleganger and his dry delivery. He’s as good as advertised at making you believe it all (until he speaks, that is). The magic of “seeing Charles Bronson” back on the big screen is too much to resist. With ridiculous violence (everyone gets at least 3 bullets), moments of camp, gratuitous nudity, and a paper-thin story, Death Kiss feels like an honest to God piece of action sleaze.
I can look past the shortcomings for that kind of a good time. Can you?
**Death Kiss blasts onto VOD and digital on October 2nd, 2018**
3.5 out of 5.0 stars