Death Kiss, the latest from Oakland-based auteur Rene Perez — the same guy who gave us The Burning Dead, Prey For Death and no less than three Playing with Dolls features to date — is a movie that manages to resurrect two of my favorite long-dormant exploitation subgenres: the 1980s vigilante fascist action flick and the almost entirely abandoned Clone-fu chop socky films of the 1970s. You know what I’m talking about — all of those Hong Kong karate movies made after Bruce Lee died starring dudes with names like Bruce Le, Bruce Li and Lee Bruce. Surely, I can’t be the only person out there who remembers such grade negative Z shlock as Enter Three Dragons and The Dragon Lives Again, am I?
Anyway, Death Kiss has the same central hook, only instead of being a ripoff of The Big Boss or The Game of Death starring a guy that vaguely resembles Bruce Lee, it’s a shameless ripoff of Death Wish starring a dude who looks exactly like Charles Bronson.
And when I say lead actor Robert “Bronzi” Kovacs is a dead ringer for old Chuck, I mean he looks just like the star of such Reagan-era revenge classics as Kinjite: Forbidden Subjects and Ten to Midnight. The resemblance between the two isn’t just uncanny, it’s almost impossible to tell who is who — that is, until Kovacs starts talking and he sounds like Roberto Benigni high on helium. With that in mind. you can perhaps see why the producers of this flick decided to dub all of Kovacs’ dialogue.
As for the film itself, Death Kiss might just be one of the best out-of-left-field B-movies of 2018. Admittedly, I went into it with pretty low expectations but I was downright stunned by how entertaining and well-made the whole thing is. Nope, this isn’t just a one-note gimmick flick — it’s indeed a legitimately great no-budget indie actioner, and a rare contemporary satire that works as both a loving homage and an acerbic deconstruction of its source inspiration.
The movie wastes no time at all getting to the guts and gore, as we’re less than 10 minutes into the feature before Chuck Lite is blasting the intestines out of morbidly obese child molestors. Then we cut to Daniel Baldwin — yep, the brother of Alec and Adam — playing this blowhard right-wing radio host going off on a rant about political correctness and cops being too chicken to arrest methamphetamine dealers.
Then we’re introduced to the female lead of the movie, this single mom played by Eva Hamilton who has a wheelchair-bound kid. For some reason, I Can’t Believe It’s Not Bronson keeps dropping off envelopes with huge wads of cash in her mailbox, but the movie ain’t going to tell us why just yet.
Then Pseudo Chuck shoots two dudes for no real discernible reason, goes down to the airport (although to me, it looks like the lobby of a Hertz Rent-a-Car) and knees a drug mule right in the stomach so he starts spewing OxyContin foam all over the carpet and dies from an overdose right then and there.
Then Faux Bronson beats up a homeless dude using a combo straight out of Final Fight 2 on the Super Nintendo and then we’re introduced to the film’s central villian, who oddly enough, is played by Richard Tyson — i.e., the guy who played the detective in There’s Something About Mary and Crisp in Kindergarten Cop.
Without giving away too much of the plot, let’s just say Tyson’s character is one mean mofo. As in, he’s the kind of guy that would force a person to beat a random dude with a burlap sack over his head to death with a baseball bat just for the lolz.
So naturally, it’s only a matter of time before he runs afoul of Eva, which, of course, means one thing, and one thing only: when he and Chuck 2.0 have their big climactic battle, you better believe there’s gonna’ be a whole lot of blood spilled.
And BBQ sauce, too — but you’ll have to watch the movie for yourself to see what I’m talking about there.
Anyway, let’s hit the highlights of the flick, why don’t we? We’ve got: Fifteen dead bodies. Two breasts. Three dead soda bottles. Three shootouts. A boulder to the noggin. Kung fu. Baseball bat fu. Uzi fu. Barbecue sauce fu. And the thing that’s more or less responsible for this movie existing in the first place–some serious 1980s nostalgia fu.
Starring Robert Bronzi Kovacs as the unnamed lead, who pulls the doors off old cars off and uses them as shields so he can shoot alt-right drug runners in the cojones while saying lines like “Not law … justice”; Richard Tyson as Tyrel, the big bad who threatens to pour gasoline down people’s throats and set their guts on fire and tells his ex-girlfriend “a pressure washer couldn’t keep you clean”; Daniel Baldwin as Dan Forthright, the Alex Jones/Rush Limbaugh clone that goes off on not just one but two tangents about black people shooting white babies in the face; and Eva Hamilton as Ana, the single mom who has dreams about her handicapped daughter running through meadows a lot and seems to really enjoy being taught how to use a shotgun … especially when she can explode Sprite bottles in slow-motion while synthwave plays in the background.
Written and directed by Rene Perez, who you can tell is going to have a long and fruitful career as a neo-exploitation filmmaker based simply on the line “I’m going to cut his little dick off and throw it in the fire” alone.
Anyway, this is a legitimately great homage to the degenerate cinema masterpieces of yesteryear, and if you’ve ever had a hankering for a sequel to Messenger of Death or The Evil That Men Do, this is probably about as close as we’re gonna’ get to a proper Death Wish 6 until they come up with a way to clone Chuck himself Jurassic Park-style.
Your mileage may vary if you’re a hardcore horror fan, but if you have even the slightest appreciation of exploitation movies, 1980s conservative politics and/or full, bristly mustaches, this is one throwback you definitely do not want to miss. Death Kiss is on VOD starting October 2nd and DVD December 4th.
Director(s): Rene Perez
Writer(s): Rene Perez
Stars: Robert Bronzi Kovacs, Richard Tyson, Daniel Baldwin, Eva Hamilton
Release date: October 10 (VOD) / December 4 (DVD)
Production Co: Millman Productions, Mosquito Entertainment / Uncork’d Entertainment
Length: 90 minutes (approximation)
Sub-Genre: Action, Vigilante, Comedy, Parody, Exploitation, Self-Referential