Movie Kumite: Death Wish 2 vs. Exterminator 2
On July 24th, 1974 the original Death Wish opened in theaters and forever changed action cinema. Audiences fed up with crime in their cities literally cheered in the movie theater as Charles Bronson, in the role of Paul Kersey, cleaned up the streets with some vigilante style justice. Death Wish was a hit!
In true Hollywood fashion, when a movie concept works producers try to copy the formula. Death Wish spawned four of its own sequels and a slew of imitators. At the top of the imitators list would be the 1980 film The Exterminator.
Interestingly enough, it was Cannon Films that saw the box office success of both Death Wish and The Exterminator as a sign that the movie going public wanted to see more of Paul Kersey (Charles Bronson) and John Eastland (Robert Ginty), so they bought the rights to make sequels for both of these vigilante classics.
In this edition of Movie Kumite we will have a Battle of the Vigilantes as we pit Death Wish 2 against Exterminator 2 in a take the law into your own hands cinematic slugfest!
While the original Death Wish did receive some critical acclaim, its sequels and other vigilante films that followed were looked down upon as exploitation films, glorifying violence and forgetting the point that Brian Garfield, the author of the novel Death Wish, was attempting to make.
So in this round, it may be which of these two vigilante sequels did the critics hate least.
Exterminator 2 has a 3.7 rating on IMDB, while Death Wish 2 scores a 5.9.
The audience over at Rotten Tomatoes, gave Death Wish 2 a 44% approval rating, while they only gave Exterminator 2 a 29% approval rating.
While Death Wish 2 is a sequel, it obviously benefits from having the original vigilante himself, Charles Bronson.
Death Wish 2 – 2 Exterminator 2 – 0
As I just stated Paul Kersey is the OV, that’s Original Vigilante, in the eyes of many movie fans. I’m sure there were other vigilantes before him in the movies, but Bronson became identified as THE movie vigilante with his portrayal of Paul Kersey. This would be both a blessing and a curse for Bronson as the years went on. But for the purposes of this competition, it is definitely a blessing.
Taking history out of it and just going purely superficial… you put Paul Kersey side by side with John Eastland and you have Kersey oozing with bad ass machismo and then there’s Eastland who looks like the dork who was pushed too far. If Ginty were about 10 years younger he could have taken the Anthony Edwards role in Revenge of the Nerds.
Death Wish 2 – 3 Exterminator 2 – 0
Perhaps realizing that their hero was found wanting, John Eastland is given a flamethrower to dish out some well one vigilante justice. As effective as Paul Kersey is with his simple hand gun, it does not have the impact of leaving your victims burnt to a crisp like Eastland.
Plus, John Eastland drives around in a garbage truck turned war machine!
Death Wish 2 – 3 Exterminator 2 – 1
Mario Van Peebles is beyond a shadow of a doubt the MVP of Exterminator 2. His portrayal of the megalomaniac known simply as X steals the show every time he is on the screen. And with a whole army of devoted followers to back him up, X is both entertaining and effective as a villain.
While Death Wish 2 has some strong villains in its own right, even the collective group of Nirvana, Stomper, Jiver, Punkcut and Cutter can’t touch the over the top awesomeness of X.
As I was recently watching Exterminator 2 in preparation for this post, I couldn’t help but think about how Paul Kersey would have matched up against X.
Death Wish 2 – 3 Exterminator 2 – 2
Here’s another category that takes my opinions out of the mix and allows us to look at pure statistics to determine which of our vigilantes was more effective in doing what vigilantes do… kill bad guys that deserve it.
John Eastland has 21 kills to his credit in Exterminator 2. This is where that flame thrower comes in extremely handy as you can easily kill multiple people at one time.
Paul Kersey comes in with 10 kills to his credit in Death Wish 2. With three more sequels to go, I guess you can say that Kersey was still just warming up in Death Wish 2.
Death Wish 2 – 3 Exterminator 2 – 3
When this battle started it looked like it was going to be a slam dunk for Death Wish 2, but Exterminator 2 has tied things up. In order to determine who the winner is in this vigilante battle, I need to call upon a revenge movie expert. I’m talking about friend of the site and author of The Mega-Book of Revenge Films, Danny Marianino…
“It’s easier to become more emotionally vested in Paul Kersey considering his daughter, who is mentally damaged due to her experience in the original Death Wish, is brutalized for a second time and commits suicide in Death Wish 2. She jumps out a window as impaled over a metal fence. It’s brutal. I remember the first time I saw the film and I was so pissed off I couldn’t wait until Lawrence Fishburne and his gang of silly rapist thugs were all killed.
Call me crazy but I also see a similarity of Kersey in Death Wish 2 to Frank Zito in Maniac. Kersey has his reasons for revenge but there is a degree of killing that Kersey does enjoy and you see it flower in Death Wish 2. Bronson’s character Paul Kersey is more than just a vigilante; he is a hunter. He does it for game and revenge.
That being said, Death Wish III stole a ton of influence from Exterminator 2. Robert Ginty reprises his iconic character John Eastland without missing a beat as he battled a gang of post-apocalyptic punks that want to take over the city. When they beat his stripper girlfriend and leave her paralyzed he turns a garbage truck into a tank and takes his revenge with the help of a new friend.
I love when Eastland and his new vigilante partner Be Gee are driving this transformed city vehicle of death around looking for criminals. Be Gee states, “Take a look over there. Look’s like some garbage needs to be removed.” That’s the point when Exterminator 2 really takes off. Its 80s mindless violence at its best from there through the rest of the film. Let’s be honest; who doesn’t want to watch a vigilante get revenge and toast the shit out of criminals with a flame thrower.
My verdict: Kersey is wacked out. Eastland is pissed. Kersey wins”. – Danny Marianino
This one was perhaps the most competitive Movie Kumite to date, but the facts have been weighed, the critics and an expert have been consulted and in the end Death Wish 2 reigns supreme!
Death Wish 2 – 4 Exterminator 2 – 3