If your cinephilic appreciation and/or relative Charles Bronson fandom are enough for you to suspend disbelief, you might find enjoyment in Rene Perez’s Death Kiss. If not, consider yourself forewarned and get ready for a film that embraces a hampering worldview that pretty much sets you back about twenty years, and not even in a fond or tasteful fashion.
The independently-produced action drama wastes no time commencing a bloody, impunitive body count with the introduction of living Charles Bronson dead ringer, English actor Robert Kovacs. While targeting any number of child predators, drug dealers, rapists and mules, the narrative also frequents a bit of commentary by way of actor Daniel Baldwin in a fitting role of Dan Forthright, the mouthy host of a jingoistic talk radio show, opining about crime and lack of aptitude from police, and often with the kind of fringe-maligned fervor you’d hear a la Rush Limbaugh or similar curmudgeons therein.
Taking the mantle in a role emulating one of every action movie fan’s favorite franchise character from 1974 and onward, Kovacs stars as K, a man with pretty much no past and who lives alone, walks the beat at night and killing as many criminals as he can – sometimes in plain sight. By day, he leers vigilantly over a woman’s house as he’s done for a period of two years while sending her miscellaneous envelopes filled with cash.
Things don’t really pick up with any congruence until we finally meet actor Richard Tyson who plays Tyrell, the vindictive leader of a small drug gang seeking retribution for one of their fallen. Bronzi’s K seemingly knows where he and most of the villains are from time to time though there’s never really any methodical setup in between to preface just when he steps into action, virtually showing up out of nowhere.
Ana (Eva Hamilton), beckoned by her own curiousity as the single mother to whom K had been mysteriously sending money, eventually confronts him with worlds of gratitude and friendship in an effort to connect with him. K’s reception of her is of a terse, albeit obliging nature as he accepts spending time with her, drinking tea and even showing her how to use a rifle, and throughout all this, never fully letting her in for fear of exposing her to the truth of his actions.
Death Kiss eventually brings a few things full circle so as to keep things cohesive for the plot’s sake. To say the least, that’s not without enduring a great deal of flaws and frills along the way – some more enjoyable than others. Perez’s vision is packaged with the kind of wall-to-wall male dominance and ample female objectification you would expect if this exact film were made in 70s with the same amount of C-list cheese.
The concoction worsens with a xenophobic air cosigned both by Forthright’s coded semantics and diatribes, K’s second amendment autonomy and the fact that every person of color in this movie is a stereotype pulled straight from a gritty 90s cop V. gangster flick. All this, save for the role of Ana apart from her own contribution to the film’s exploitive breastiness and whose redeeming quality is the fact that she’s a good mom recovering from a gamey past rife with bad decisions, does nothing to help this film regain its footing by the third act.
It’s worth mentioning that K, due in part to his “strong and silent” demeanor, doesn’t speak for nearly the first-half of the film and it might have served a little better if he didn’t speak at all given that his face and iconic brood does most of the talking. Instead, he’s dubbed the entire time which makes it all the more distracting when you’re trying to flesh out as much emotive intake in the drama. Indeed, with a film this cheap and contrived, it’s tricky to deliver a worthy and fun action movie when your archetypical protagonist is reduced to just being a face after all said/dubbed and done.
The kills are as brutal and violent as one might hope with squibs exploding in excesses, next to the occasional CG for a time or two. Tropes like this are fun to watch even if they are a little silly, and Perez likely knew this; It begs asking why he would lead this film further astray with an unsettling ideology that toxifies its delivery even more unless he’s trying to appease a certain demographic.
Say what you will about any appeal Death Kiss has in wake of the continued niche-driven ceremony over the late actor Kovacs’ likeness takes after, or even that of Eli Roth’s franchise remake beleagured in its PR. The environment we currently live in makes it almost difficult to seperate reality from escapist, thrilling fiction with a film like Death Kiss, which, given its potential early on, could have been something fun for the enduring action movie crowd – maybe even in a spiritually successive fashion.
Conclusively, it simply isn’t. Thus, the film fails to even entertain as a minutely subversive R-rated throwback. I’m sincerely hoping this isn’t the best Perez has to offer since he has another action thriller down the pipeline called The Dragon Unleashed. The same goes especially for Kovacs if he’s to be more than the face that has gotten him this far. Kudos for his hustle though.
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DEATH KISS (2018)
Bulletholes, plot holes, none of it really matters with Death Kiss. In its pointed push for bygone Bronson nostalgia, you get a joyless, toxic, subpar vigilante thriller that rides the coattails of a long-departed action film legend, essentially doing little to none of the justice Daniel Baldwin's character unapologetically misrepresents. It's kind of depressing.
- Robert Bronzi Kovacs excites in bringing Death Wish fandom back to the fray somewhat.
- The pros are really all that this film has going for itself.
- My Verdict