The Kerse v Drugs: Death Wish 4: The Crackdown
This is where the entertainment in the series stops. This is the first Death Wish film helmed by someone other than Winner, and when the fat hack left the series he seems to have taken 90% of the entertainment with him. Aside from one gleefully bugnuts moment (I have a gif of it coming up) Death Wish 4 is a monumental let down, being boring, pointless and wildly out of place with the rest of the Kerse’s adventures.
Contains an ON SCREEN death by RPG and spoilers below.
When we last left the Kerse, he had just cleaned up town and was off to carry on with the random execution of creeps, punks and other varieties of low level street scum. However, despite this:
He’s gone back in to retirement and moved back to LA. Incidentally, as a rule of thumb with Death Wish films: LA= shit. He’s also got himself a girlfriend and a step kid in waiting. Anyhoo, Step kid takes some naughty, naughty drugs and overdoses. This, unsurprisingly, sends the Kerse into vengeance mode and a couple of dead dealers later things are looking up (for me anyway). Unfortunately, he then gets dragged in to some stupid fucking drugs war playing the two sides off against each other before carnage and a singular lack of entertainment ensues.
This is the shortest plot summary that I’ve done for this series, and that’s because it blows. I’m not watching a Death Wish film to see Bronson sort out drug crime in LA. I’m watching it to see him entertainingly execute creeps in absurd ways. This is such a fail. An epic fail, actually. Who the fuck signs up to a Death Wish film to see him pretend to be a waiter to plant phone bugs in a nefarious drug baron’s gaffe? Seriously, because if that’s why you’re watching a Death Wish film, then I suspect that I have little to talk to you about.
Having said that, the various actual set pieces are quite entertaining. The bumper car killing is hugely amusing, fighting top henchman in his apartment is great, and the exploding the real bad guy with the ludicrous RPG is obviously top drawer. But the star set piece is the beginning with the Kerse executing a couple of would be rapist creeps in a parking lot, only for one of them to be *gasp* him, and then it turning out to all be a dream. This was actually the first time I’d seen this film, and that sequence (pre- Bronson face turning up on dead creep) suckered me into thinking we may have some underrated awesome on our hands. However, sadly, we don’t.
Bronson is the usual Kerse barrel of awesome. He’s still looking trim, weatherbeaten and tough as fucking nails. I still believe that he would happily go out and execute street scum for the crime of being street scum. However, the rest of the supporting cast, bar George Dickerson as Reiner (this film’s police representative) frankly stink. In part this is down to some seriously disinterested performances, particularly from the head drugs scumbags. The prospect of an all out turf war has never been so dull.
Particularly boring is Kersey’s relationship the woman who I can’t remember the name of, and can’t be bothered to look up the actress for. This is so, so boring, and basically disappears for 80% of the film before she reappears when the real bad guy needs a convenient hostage. I’m actually struggling to find an explanation for why we’re meant to give a red fuck about her, given that she’s more boring than deciding between airplane grey and naval grey to paint local authority toilet walls and furthermore basically isn’t in the film.
So, the problems here clearly lie at script level. I’m actually curious to see if this started out life as a vehicle for Lethal Weapon or something like that because it’s so, so out of place in the Death Wish Canon. However, I would like to compliment the handling of Reiner, who is, at least, properly anti The Kerse for (basically) being a serial killer. If there was more Reiner and less crap then this would be a much, much better film.
Before I sign off, there are 2 other worthwhile talking points in this film. The first is that this is the first Death Wish film entirely rape free (not that it matters), although the trope with him turning up to hospital just in time for someone to die makes it, but the second is that this is the first time that the police (represented by Reiner) are openly antagonistic towards the Kerse. I’ve already alluded to it, but it’s worth emphasising that Reiner flat-out does not like this vigilante being active on his turf, and is begging for a chance to arrest him (which makes the end a bit odd, though). I quite like this idea, actually, as one of the things I’ve always struggled with in the series is the cops being so complicit in The Kerse’s body count.
Which brings me on to the usual Death Wish Killer Ending, and this one’s a cracker- The Kerse explodes the bad guy (automatic win there), then (despite girlfriend being dead), turns round to Reiner and tells him that he’s got to do what he’s got to do, and walks off into the sunset. This is top drawer and along with the intro almost completely out of place in the context of the film.
Overall, Death Wish 4 fucking sucks. I’d be tempted to go really really low for it were a handful of set pieces not entertaining and the fact that he explodes a bad guy on camera, making up for Fraker in the last film. However, on any level it’s not a good film, and sadly this time it’s not an entertaining bad film, so I’m going with 1 Kerse delivering street justice out of 4. On many levels this is the worst film of the series.
Also, in no way was justice even remotely served as I reckon you can still probably buy gear in LA, despite The Kerse’s best efforts. Anyhow, Last one to go, and it’s the film that inspired a consistently hilarious Simpson’s gag: Death Wish 5.