Wednesday, February 02, 2005


Great Movies#2: Death Wish 2 and 3

I find TV in the US difficult or impossible to watch because of the frequency of commercials. The incessant interruption mean it's not even worth my while trying to watch a movie.

So anyway at the moment I am suffering the worst bout of flu or something I can remember. Yesterday evening found me in bed having consumed a cocktail of various cold remedies throughout the day; Robitussin, Motrin, and some weird blue stuff in a bottle. My head felt too bad to read so against my better judgment I flipped on the TV.

To my surprise I found that the medication had greatly increased my tolerance for commercials. Normally the third time in half an hour I see the same ad ... Levitra, Vytorin, Zelnorm, Wilford Brimley on Diabetes, disabled scooters, etc., I just switch off. Yesterday night, however, thanks to whatever was in those flu remedies, all those repetitive ads just washed over me. ("A low risk of sexual side effects!" "... is indicated only for women!").

What is it with Americans and pharmaceuticals? Is everyone sick here?

The point is, last night, AMC were showing Death Wish 2 followed by Death Wish 3.

The Death Wish movies started in the 1970s when there was a lot of popular fear over rampant crime with police unable or unwilling to do anything about it. This is less of a problem now since the Americans started incarcerating criminals for very lengthy periods. While probably not rehabilitating offenders, this does at least have the effect of keeping criminals off the street and away from their victims, which, as a taxpayer, I regard as an excellent use of public funds.

But back in the 1970s, on the streets where the gangs and muggers ruled, stepped the craggy visage of Charles Bronson dispensing his own unique brand of justice to wrongdoers - basically, shooting them.

Death Wish 2 has Bronson in LA hunting the men who killed his daughter and housekeeper. He hangs around LA's skid row night after night offing the lowlifes responsible as he comes across them.

Unlike Eastwood, Bronson doesn't deliver long speeches before wasting a punk. The nearest he comes in this film, is where he asks of the first guy, seeing he is wearing a crucifix, "Do you believe in Jesus? Well, you're gonna meet him!". He tracks the next mugger down to an underground parking lot where he's at hard at work assaulting a couple whose dress sense alone merits jail time. All Bronson says to this guy before pulling the trigger is, "Goodbye".

At the end of the film, Bronson catches up with the last of the killers (with whom he exchanges no dialog at all) who has been placed in a mental institution where he is being treated with kid gloves by the liberal justice establishment. Bronson bluffs his way in disguised as a doctor. Just to show you how slack things are, Bronson asks an orderly the purpose of some equipment. The orderly - apparently unconcerned that the doctor doesn't know what the equipment in his own hospital does - replies that it's an electro-shock machine, but that regrettably "they aren't allowed to use it these days". (Curse these liberals! Of course, with Gonzalez at the DoJ, all that will change now!)

The various sick and aging people who must, judging by the commercials, comprise AMC's demographic, should take heart that one of their number, the pensionable Bronson, manages to take out a gang member double his size and strung out on PCP, by frying him in an electro-shock machine, and gets away with it! Excellent!

Next up was Death Wish 3. Bronson heads back to a part of New York where out of control gang violence has turned his old friend's neighborhood into something reminiscent of Beirut during the civil war, or London during an international soccer game.

The local police chief, powerless to do anything to stop the mayhem, due to tiresome (or should that be 'quaint') restrictions such as the first, fourth, fifth and probably sixth and fourteenth amendments, turns Bronson loose with, effectively, carte blanche to clean things up, no questions asked.

This he does, wandering the streets casually shooting various lowlifes with an enormous gun. Eventually the local gang boss gets annoyed at the way the his crew is being reduced. Especially as it's being done by a killer with a face like an old boot who, after two movies, doesn't even bother doing his victims the courtesy of delivering a humorous quip or anecdote before despatching them. The boss therefore rings a fellow gang leader and asks him to send over a bunch of members on bikes who weren't doing much that week.

The stage is thus set for the final confrontation between Bronson and the punks. A few locals get involved too, but it's mostly Bronson, who at one point opens up with a giant WW-2 vintage machine gun. During the mayhem, not wanting to be left out, the police chief himself turns up, walking down the street shooting people left, right and center. There are probably quite a few police chiefs around who have dreams like that.

Finally Bronson takes out the gang leader with a LAWS rocket, just like Clint Eastwood took out his nemesis at the end of The Enforcer.

Great movies? They are both very watchable for what they were and very much of their time. They remind us that the current level of safety and security we enjoy as Americans was not always taken for granted. A scene in DW3 where two big uniformed cops strong-arm a defenceless elderly couple living in the center of a war zone into handing over their gun reminded me of the situation back home in Britain.

As for the LAWS rocket, I think it is a marvellous weapon - a one shot, disposable bazooka. Perfect for home defence, or for hunting deer.


I have reason to be proud of my former fellow Londoners.

From This is London

Capital tops licence fee shame list
2 February 2005

Londoners are the nation's worst television licence fee dodgers for the third year running, according to figures from TV Licensing.

A total of 64,874 fee evaders were caught in the capital during 2004, more than three times the number in the next worst city, Glasgow, while across the UK 399,918 were found out.

TV Licensing said more than 1,000 people were caught every day last year thanks to its database of over 28 million addresses showing all unlicensed properties. Using a fleet of hi-tech detector vans and handheld scanners, inquiry officers focus their visits on properties where there is no record of a TV licence.

Yes, my fellow Americans, to watch TV back in the UK, you have to pay the Government an annual license fee which funds the BBC, an organization so left of centre it makes NPR here in the US seem like Howard Stern or Bill O'Reilly in comparison. They send round inspectors armed with hand-held TV detectors and take you to court if they find you watching TV without a license.

Oh, what it is to be in the Land of the Free!

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