Exploitation Retrospect | The Journal of Junk Culture and Fringe Media
Death Wish 4: The Crackdown (1987)
Cannon Home Video | Review by Dan Taylor

I always admire filmmakers that follow the golden rule of sequels laid down by Joe Bob Briggs - "If you're going to make a sequel, do it right and make the same damn movie all over again." Take a look at just about every FRIDAY THE 13TH flick, EVIL DEAD 2 and even stuff I wasn't crazy about like TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE 2. If it works once, let's just do it again!

You can add Charles Bronson's DEATH WISH series to the list. DW4: THE CRACKDOWN – directed by Cannon vet J Lee Thompson – takes place about three years after the weak DEATH WISH 3. Bronson's Paul Kersey is running an architectural design firm and for the last two years he's been dating Kay Lenz, a widow with a daughter in high school.

The couple is SO CLOSE that ol' Squinty Eyes even thinks of the teen as his own. To even the most casual of observers, this means that she'll be hitting the steel slab mighty soon.

The kid dies from an overdose of bad crack (as opposed to that good crack we've heard so much about) and the tragedy forces Bronson out of retirement so that he can off the scum that gave her the drugs. Pretty soon a wealthy businessman whose daughter also died of an overdose is stockpiling the vigilante so that he can wipe out the rival traffickers that control most of the drug biz in So Cal.

Pretty soon the screen is filled with warring drug factions, inept cops on Bronson's tail, a couple cool shootouts, exploding wine bottles and lots of vigilantekata. There's even a nod to CHINATOWN for the completely brain dead members of the viewing public.

Poor Kay Lenz, though. Her role as "The Girlfriend" amounts to about 20 minutes in the first reel and then she disappears until she's needed for "The Climactic Shootout." Truly a shame, especially since she was still a fabulous babe when this flick was made and she makes for a nice visual distraction from ol' Chuck (see the underrated STRIPPED TO KILL for further proof).

CRACKDOWN's cinematic highlights include an EMPIRE STRIKES BACK-esque dream sequence and the by-the-books-Bronson turn that pretty much defined the man's work in the 80s. Whether he's in the PG-rated action/romance ASSASSINATION (another underrated flick from his Cannon days) or the creepy killer-on-the-loose 10 TO MIDNIGHT (also with Thompson), it's almost the exact same performance.

However, you gotta admire the man's staying power – seven years after CRACKDOWN he saddled up one last time to play the role of Paul Kersey in DEATH WISH V: THE FACE OF DEATH with Lesley Anne-Down and Michael Parks.

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