Bullet Points: Death Wish 4: The Crackdown
On November 6th, 1987, the fourth installment in the Death Wish franchise was released in theaters.
Now I don’t believe there was any way they could top the awesomeness that was Death Wish 3. That was definitely the high water mark for the series and some would argue that they should have quit while they were ahead.
But Cannon Films didn’t see it that way, so Death Wish 4 was happening but they gave it a gimmick this time around when they tied in the war on drugs that was all the rage in the 1980’s.
How big was the war on drugs in the 1908’s? Well, First Lady Nancy Reagan’s main project when her husband was in office was the Just Say No campaign. Imagine if this movie was made years later with First Lady Michelle Obama’s war on childhood obesity as the theme of the movie, you’d have Paul Kersey hunting down Wendy, the Burger King and Ronald McDonald instead of drug dealers.
- The Premise: Paul Kersey is back in Los Angeles and back to work as an architect (an occupation that doesn’t even get mentioned in Death Wish 3). He has his own company now and a new love interest, newspaper reporter Karen Sheldon (Kay Lenz). He’s also grown close to Sheldon’s daughter Erica (Dana Barron). It finally seems that Paul has started over and he can leave all his vigilante ways behind him. That is until Erica overdoses on cocaine, then Kersey is back at it, hunting down the guy who sold Erica the drugs and bringing him to justice, KERSEY STYLE! This catches the attention of an interested party, Nathan White (John P. Ryan). White shares his own tragedy of losing a daughter to drugs and convinces Kersey that to really eliminate the problems, he needs to take care of the guys who bring the stuff into the country to begin with and he has the financial resources to get Kersey whatever he wants. With another license to kill, Kersey is back in business with his one man war on drugs.
- The P stands for Puppet Master: I’ll start off by saying, SPOILER ALERT! John P. Ryan’s character Nathan White is not what he seems. In fact, he’s not even the real Nathan White, he poses as White to convince Kersey to unknowingly eliminate the drug competition so he can take over. We never learn his character’s true identity. Ryan’s role in this movie had such an impact on me that whenever I see him in another movie and he’s on the side of good, I expect that at some point he will go all Benedict Arnold and turn on the hero.
- The Cops: Unlike Death Wish 3, Kersey is not covertly working for the police, so an element from the first two Death Wish films is brought back, with the cops on the trail of the mysterious vigilante taking the law into his own hands. You may recognize the cops from other Cannon films, there’s Detective Reiner (played by George Dickerson of Death Warrant fame) and Detective Phil Nozaki (played by Soon-Tek Oh of Missing in Action 2 fame).
Death Wish 4 does not live up to the first three movies in the series, but as I stated earlier that it was going to be pretty much impossible to follow Death Wish 3. There’s also a lot more downtime in between the action, which makes this one seem much longer than its 99 minute run time. And at 99 minutes it is already the longest Death Wish movie in history.
With all that said, I’d still rather watch a second rate Death Wish sequel, than a first rate lot of other things. And if you are a fan of Charles Bronson you know exactly what I’m talking about.
Now here’s a few more Bullet Points about Death Wish 4…
- Is That Danny Trejo?: Yes, a young Danny Trejo is a goon eating at an Italian restaurant in Death Wish 4, when Kersey shows up posing as a wine salesman equipped with an exploding bottle of wine. That’s right, an exploding bottle of wine… Professional wrestling historians may recognize two familiar faces as well, there’s Gene LeBell and Mark Pellegrino, who would go on to star as Hulk Hogan’s little brother Randy in the movie, No Holds Barred.
- The Cannon Video Store: At one point, Kersey goes to a video store that is a front for the drug dealers. The video store is filled with posters for Cannon films. This would have been my favorite video store if it actually existed.
- Favorite Quote: Kersey doing his best to console Karen after the funeral for Erica… “Don’t blame yourself, it’s those damn drugs!” A line delivered like only Charles Bronson could.