DEATH WISH 4: THE CRACKDOWN
MOVIE: ** (out of 5)
BLU-RAY EXPERIENCE: * (out of 5)
BY KEVIN CARR
If “Death Wish 2” was still a personal film for the character of Paul Kersey, and if “Death Wish 3” was his first foray into superhuman super-vigilante, “Death Wish 4: The Crackdown” was a step over the self-aware edge.
The film starts off somewhat similar to the other films (aside from the fact that it features an opening dream sequence that rips off the cave sequence from “The Empire Strikes Back” in a failed attempt to be self-reflective and artistic). Paul Kersey is trying to live a normal life in Los Angeles, but his life is touched again by crime when his girlfriend’s daughter dies of a drug overdose.
Determined to do something about the escalating sale of crack cocaine (a hot topic in the late 80s, you’ll remember), Kersey gets hooked up with a millionaire who gives him all the information he needs to destroy rival drug gangs. However, with his girlfriend digging deeper into the drug trade in a special story she’s doing for a newspaper, Kersey soon learns a secret about his mysterious benefactor.
By the time any series gets to the fourth movie, if it’s even close to being competent, it’s a success. In this respect, “Death Wish 4: The Crackdown” was a success by default. However, it could have been a lot better. The biggest albatross around its neck is the placement of crack (and the not-so-clever pun in the title) at the center of the story.
What made Paul Kersey so relatable in the first films is that he was just a normal guy whose life was touched by violence. Anyone could at least sympathize with the character whose wife and daughter are assaulted and killed. However, when Kersey decides to take on the drug trade with only a peripheral motivation, the story unfolds more like a overtly violent after-school special rather than a cathartic vigilante movie.
Here’s where Kersey picks up a cause rather than just lashing out, and that’s where the motivation and character weakens. If this movie were made today, he’d be going after schoolyard bullies or Somali pirates, and it would cease being a true “Death Wish” movie.
While the violent elements are still entertaining at times, “Death Wish 4: The Crackdown” offers a neutered hero, which makes the series’ slumping box office entirely understandable.
The new Blu-ray comes with no special features aside from the original theatrical trailer.