Saturday, August 22, 2009

Film Review: DEATH WISH 4- THE CRACKDOWN (1987, J. Lee Thompson)

Stars: 4.5 of 5.
Running Time: 99 minutes.
Notable Cast or Crew: Charles Bronson, John P. Ryan (IT'S ALIVE, CLASS OF 1999), Danny Trejo, Soon-Tek Oh (MISSING IN ACTION 2), George Dickerson (BLUE VELVET, PSYCHO II), Mark Pellegrino (Jacob on TV's LOST, MULHOLLAND DR.).
Tag-lines: "The biggest Death Wish ever!"
Best one-liner: "I was just using the... toilet?" (said by Bronson)

Ah, 1987. When the scourge of crack lashed ceaselessly across the welted and track-marked back of America; so much so, that everybody and their brother and Pee-Wee and Clint Eastwood were doing anti-crack PSAs. Well, it was time for Charles Bronson to step in and say- "Anyone connected with drugs deserves to die!"

"When can I start?"

But the thing is, DEATH WISH 4: THE CRACKDOWN forgets that it's a PSA about 25 minutes in, and turns into a balls-to-the-wall Golan-Globus shoot 'em up, which is completely fine by me. With J. Lee Thompson directing instead of Winner, one could worry about the film's moxie. The first scene lets you know those fears are unfounded: a woman's alone in a parking garage with some jazzy sax and slappy bass. You know something awful's about to happen, and yet the film is completely gleeful about the set-up. Some ominous men, an engine that won't turn over, some high-fives, and an attempted gang rape later, Bronson shows up, says his name is "Death," shoots the hoods, has a nightmarish vision á la Luke in Yoda's cave, and then wakes up from a nightmare!

The high-five during gang-rape is essential.

"Who are you???" –"Death."

At least he wasn't dreaming about a white buffalo. I should do a scholarly paper on the dream-life of Bronson.

There's a lot goin' on: we got a dude blown away by Bronson, zapped, and cooked atop a bumper car rink; a wild-eyebrowed John P. Ryan;

Laura Dern's cop Dad from BLUE VELVET (George Dickerson); Mark Pellegrino (the hitman in MULHOLLAND DR. and Jacob on TV's LOST) as a mascara-wearin' Punk;

Danny Trejo meeting the wrong end of Bronson's exploding wine bottle;

Bronson's hidden room of assault weapons and C-4 behind his 'fridge; really awkward Bronson subterfuge;

Bronson cater-waitering a party (to infiltrate and destroy);

insane self-promotion (one of the baddies has an office lined with Cannon posters like BREAKIN' and TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE 2);

a daytime shootout later referred to as having happened at night, because they were too lazy to alter the script; the best stilted Bronson one-liner since DW3's "It's MY CAR!" (with "I was MAKIN' A SANDWICH!");

and a climactic shootout at a roller disco.

This sort of thing happens all the time.

Yep, this is a Cannon film. And it is terrific. Recommended to anyone who hates drugs, people who sell drugs, people who use drugs, or people who know people who sell or use drugs.

-Sean Gill


Anonymous said...

the i was makin sandwich clip should be called paul keresy vs action jackson

Sean Gill said...

I think it's reasonable to say that I would definitely watch a movie called PAUL KERSEY VS. ACTION JACKSON. Maybe that's why this is one of my favorite scenes in the movie.

Anonymous said...

i agree that is one of best scenes of the movie. kersey vs action that would be funniest movie ever made if that happend

ps mr gill your blog is one of my favorite blogs to read and you write brillant and funny stuff on it

Sean Gill said...

Thanks for the kind words, Anon.! Interestingly enough, I published a review of MURPHY'S LAW today- another Cannon/Bronson film from the same writer as DW4- which reveals additional Bronson/sandwich action for those hungry for more...