Judge David Johnson has a death wish. Don't believe him? Read on.
Ron Jeremy stars in this micro-budget knock-off of Kill Bill (the disc synopsis goes as far as proclaiming the "explosive action in the tradition of Kill Bill"; has that movie been around long enough to qualify as "tradition"?). Charlie's Death Wish sure isn't short on the gore and gunshot sound effects, but it's possible that a voluntary viewer of this flick might have their own death wish issues.
Facts of the Case
The film opens with a bang. A seemingly distressed woman is having trouble starting her car. She gets out and wanders around the tough part of town, and suddenly finds herself in a dark alley, surrounded by a gaggle of gang members.
Though it's apparent the thugs have malfeasance on the mind, before they can act on it, the mysterious woman drops a live grenade. Inexplicably, one of the goons throws himself on it and blows up amid smoke and firecrackers. In the confusion, the woman takes out a gun and starts blasting, blowing away all the gang members. Then she quietly leaves the scene, gets back into her car, and drives off.
The investigating officer (Ron Jeremy) shows up to nose around, then makes the assertion that the murder was "clean" and not a gang hit, despite the body parts and blood splattered all around. As it turns out, this cop may actually have a soft spot for this female vigilante.
The woman's name is Charlie Durham (Phoebe Dollar, Blood Sisters), and she's out to avenge the unlawful imprisonment and brutal murder of her sister. She's after everyone involved: the arresting officer, the other prisoners, even a self-absorbed moviemaker. Her quest for vengeance will take her deep into criminal territory, but lucky for her she (a) wields guns that never run out of ammo and (b) has the ability to escape injury even when her enemies open fire at point-blank range.
The strength of Charlie's Death Wish lies with the carnage that director Jeff Leroy throws on screen. He's not afraid to unleash his low-grade pyrotechnics, and his gore effects are messy, cheap, and fun. The guy has a real desire to mangle the human body in this movie, and for that I need to give him props.
Too bad, then, that the flick kinda sucks. The plot is indeed derivative of Quentin Tarantino's revenge saga (which is of course derivative of a mountain of chop-socky theatre). The plot is this: girl loved sister, sister gets wasted, girl kills lots of people. And that's about as clever as the script gets. Which might be a blessing, as the acting is so hideous; if the folks on screen had had the chance to butcher quality dialouge, they might have ripped a hole in the fabric of the space-time continuum.
Really, Charlie's Death Wish is an excuse to throw gratuitous violence on screen at a budget price. And despite a few last-minute attempts at some melodrama (which of course comes across as pure hokum), there isn't much pretension happening here. Scenes without violence act simply as transition pieces to get to the scenes with violence. Take for example the ridiculous flashbacks Charlie has about the good time with her sister, which consisted entirely of dancing on a hill. Oh, that's why she's so pissed. She doesn't have anyone to frolic with in the flowers anymore!
Once Charlie gets her groove on, and the Karo syrup flies freely, the fun begins. And it's two-pronged fun: (1) The action is so tongue-in-cheek there's zero emotional weight lent to a guy getting his fake head blown off; and (2) see "fake head, blowing off of": the execution is sometimes so laughably cheap and goofy, I dare you not to gleefully deride it. Gunfire is comprised of obvious generic sound effects, and it's easy to see goons pulling the trigger and shaking their guns despite a complete lack of actual flame coming from the barrel; bodies falling off cliffs and decks are transparently dummies; fake heads blowing up appear to be the result of junior high art classes in plaster work; and watch for appearances by the boom mike. Though I will give props to the squib work—it's effective and bloody.
Video quality (1.33:1 full frame) is typical of the vanishing-budget horror genre; some scenes certainly hold up better than others, but overall the flick is soft on the eyes. The 2.0 stereo mix is surprisingly aggressive and really helps out the action scenes. It's not 5.1, but filtered through Pro Logic II, the mix works.
A behind-the-scenes featurette is the high point of the extras, and nicely shows the lengths a low-budget filmmaker has to go to put a scene together; my favorite was the car chase scene pulled off with miniatures and string. Some trailers and a blooper reel (pretty much consisting of one person who couldn't make it through a simple line reading) finish things off.
Charlie's Death Wishis certainly a stupid movie, but the fun blood and gore effects mixed with guffaw-inducing acting and production values might make for a good time. Unless you've got something better to do, like shaving your initials into your cat or something.
Guilty, though the court would like the judgment to reflect that it didn't hate itself for spending 80 minutes with the accused.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Go Kart Films
• Blooper Reel
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