Tuesday, May 10, 2016

In short: Death Wish 4: The Crackdown (1987)

After his very impressive killing spree in New York, serial vigilante Paul Kersey (Charles Bronson) has retired from the business and is working as an architect in Los Angeles again. He has already acquired a new family in form of girlfriend and journalist Karen Sheldon (Kay Lenz) and her daughter Erica (Dana Barron). But don’t worry, Kersey will soon enough find a reason to murder again, for Erica dies of a cocaine overdose. After Kersey kills the dealer responsible, he is contacted by a mysterious millionaire (John P. Ryan) who convinces him to think bigger and stop the drug problem once and for all. To that goal he provides Kersey with arms and information about the two major LA drug operations.

Kersey’s soon in his serial killing groove again, despite the usual incompetent (George Dickerson) and corrupt (Soon-Tek Oh) cops on his trail. He even has a plan he must have read in a Punisher comic: provoke the two drug groups into a gang war, because that sort of thing has never cost innocent lives, right?

After the sheer insanity of Death Wish 3, J. Lee Thompson’s The Crackdown is a bit of a let-down in its insistence on being only general action movie dumb instead of completely out of its mind, and of being mildly tasteless instead of a Michael Winner film. There’s just no way a competent little action film without all too much that’s memorable can look exciting compared to the force of nature that came before.

Of course, I don’t really see how the sequel ever could have topped what was going on in part 3, particularly that film’s final half hour. This goes even more so with someone like Thompson in the director’s chair who seems somewhat lost in the kind of explosion fest this tries to be, coming more from a classical thriller background as he does, and sometimes looking as if he struggles to get quite as unsubtle as the material needs him to be. Consequently, the best directed scenes here aren’t the large shoot-outs or the roller rink massacre in the end, but the smaller skirmishes when Bronson fights only a handful of guys, because then the rules of the thriller apply instead of those of the 80s action film, Cannon style.

The Crackdown is still decent entertainment, mind you, for while Thompson isn’t putting his best foot forward, there’s enough basic competence here to keep the film moving, and such a mass of explosions, dead bodies and general carnage (if you just pretend you haven’t seen the true meaning of these words in Death Wish 3), the worst thing I have to say about it is that it doesn’t feature particularly memorable explosions or carnage.

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