Home Video Hovel- Death Wish 4: The Crackdown, by Aaron Pinkston
As far as the Death Wish series, I could be excited about the third film because of its growing cult reception, but the obligatorily subtitled Death Wish 4: The Crackdown (yes, I will continue to refer to the film in full title) is a film I never heard anything about ever. And, for the most part, I was pretty bored by this film. We know the game that is being played, but the film seems resistant to being the crazy over-the-top film that preceded it. After a pretty interesting opening scene that is well staged and something different for the series, there is little action through the first half of this film. Instead, after Paul Kersey’s new girlfriend’s (the dude moves on quickly) daughter dies of a cocaine overdose, there is a lot of talk about cleaning up the streets of crack dealers, but not a ton of actually doing it.
In the previous films, Kersey was mostly a shadowy vigilante for the people, coming out at night, patrolling the streets with his own brand of justice. One narrative problem of this fourth installment is that instead of cleaning up the streets by getting rid of its low-level scum, Kersey scopes out the big-wig drug cartels. I really like the idea of focusing his vengeance on the specific drug problem, something super pertinent to 1980’s Los Angeles, but the movie plays less like a Death Wish movie and more like a Bond knock-off. I don’t want to see Kersey pretending he is a butler to gain intel on the drug lords and I don’t particularly care to see this film spend so much time as a global drug movie. Infiltrating the two major drug families and trying to stop their dealings just isn’t interesting to me in the context of the series. Call me old fashioned, but I want to see Paul Kersey brandishing a big gun, shooting crazy tweaked-out dudes in the head. We just don’t get enough of that here, for long stretches at a time.
This is the first of the franchise not directed by Michael Winner. I certainly wouldn’t call Winner a great director or auteur (the only other non-Death Wish film I’ve seen from him is the decent creeper The Sentinel), but he showed a great acumen for small-scale action films that made you think just enough without preaching over very-preachy topics. It’s really a surprise that he directed Death Wish 3, with its incredibly different tone, and I see his willingness to change without taking away from quality as a positive. Also surprising, the director to take over the franchise wasn’t a young filmmaker taking a “step up” as is usually the case, but a very established filmmaker who had previously directed a masterpiece. J. Lee Thompson may have directed Cape Fear, but this is a far cry from that. I’m not educated on his career on whole, but Death Wish 4: The Crackdown feels very amateurish — it has little-to-no style and far too much substance that it deserves. I don’t mean to be ageist, but being in his 70s at the time of production may have something to do with the success rate of this film.
I’m not great with dissecting the technical aspects of DVD and Blu-Ray, but there is a particular problem I found with this disk that I didn’t have with the other two. The sound mix here is absolutely terrible. I was forced to crank my speakers up past levels they never need to be, and there were still dialogue scenes that come out mumbled. Just a thought if anyone was interested in buying or renting this film — it’s undoubtedly the best way to see Death Wish 4: The Crackdown at home, but this is yet another example of how this film series hasn’t been given a proper release.