2018 | DIR. RENE PEREZ | REVIEW BY SHAUN CRAWFORD.
The main difference is that, while Bronson’s series of 5 films had its ups and downs, DEATH KISS is a bottom-of-the-barrel affair.
The plot (what little there is) doesn’t kick-in until the second act in which The Stranger (Kovaks) seeks repentance for his dark, violent past by continually sending single mum Ana (Eva Hamilton) unexplained wads of cash, which she is bizarrely okay with, even going so far as to buying a house with all the unexplained cash she keeps receiving in her mailbox. The tax laws be damned.
Mash is all together with a half-baked plot involving a fugitive from the law, Tyrell (Richard Tyson) with whom The Stranger has an unexplained vendetta against, and you have all the excuse Perez needs for blood-letting.
The first 25-minutes serves as a patchwork of The Stranger cold-bloodedly murdering random criminals wherever and whenever he stumbles upon them. An early scene promising a semi-interesting subplot involving an underage sex-trade racket is left to blow in the wind while Kovaks stalks a series of seemingly unconnected baddies in various warehouses and alleyways.
Nobody is going to be watching DEATH KISS for its originality or for its nuanced portrayals of the hard-knock life, mind you. The film's draw-card is its star, Robert Kovaks. Discovered while casting for a previous Perez film, Hungarian-born Kovaks’ uncanny resemblance to the late (great) Charles Bronson is striking. So much so it would be no surprise if Perez wrote the script for DEATH KISS around Kovaks looks. In fact, it’s almost a guarantee that’s how it went down.
Unlike his doppelgänger though, Kovaks doesn’t hold the same gravitas as Bronson. His thousand-yard stare barely reaches 20ft. Daniel Baldwin (looking and sounding more like Alec than ever) cameos as the radio DJ social commentator, Dan Forthright, serving as the voice of an outraged public and chewing up the ultra right-wing dialogue. His thankful presence lends a touch of professionalism to a cast seemingly littered with first-timers and friends of Perez doing the director a favour.
Perez, wearing all the hats and serving as writer, director, composer, cinematographer, editor, has completed 18 feature films since 2010. His DIY approach to film is evident in all the wrong ways, though. While there’s no doubt it's a lot of fun, it remains rough around the edges and suffers from a hand-me-down script and rampantly poor performances.
Ultimately DEATH KISS wants to resonate with films of old, but it never musters the courage to try anything new and as a result it simply stagnates, lacking sympathy and melancholy and swapping them out for gimmicks and gore. At least Roth gave us a reason to care.