The Kerse v Drugs: Death Wish 4: The Crackdown

Death Wish 4 poster

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:

Lied to. Again.

Lied to. Again.

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.

Death Wish 4 2

This week’s special Death Wish Cameo is Danny Trejo. It really is amazing the amount of recognisable faces that you see popping up in these films.


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.

Taking care of business.

Taking care of business.

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.

Oh my God, they killed Pacman.... YOU BASTARDS!

Oh my God, they killed Pacman….

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.


Making the entire film worthwhile.


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.

Until then,



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About Jarv

Workshy cynic, given to posting reams of nonsense on the internet and watching films that have inexplicably got a piss poor reputation.

42 responses to “The Kerse v Drugs: Death Wish 4: The Crackdown”

  1. tombando says :

    I have seen this, besides the fun filled rpg death I honestly don’t remember anything about it. Trejo is in this?

  2. tombando says :

    The gif is worth the price of admission.

  3. Judge Droid says :

    Hey, at least there’s no rape in this one!

    The plot sounds a bit like it was going for a Yojimbo/Fist Full of Dollars kind of thing.

    Now that you’ve got the fluff out of the way, your next one is the real deal. Mainly because it’s the one i’ve seen (but don’t remember). The Kerse vs Debilitating Arthritis: Death Wish 5.

  4. Just Pillow Talk says :

    Heh…I like it when your….disappointment… is rather clear cut.

    “Death Wish 4 fucking sucks.”

    Was there some other film that made you want to stuff your head in the oven besides this one? It sounds like this is a cumulative effect, and not just this one.

    Yet another of these I’ve never seen.

  5. tombando says :

    Bronson’s 80’s/Cannon Films Ouevre is very hit and Miss…the Evil that Men Do, Murphy’s Law, Assassination, Messenger of Death, Kinjite, Ten til Midnight, these lovelies Jarv’s has waded through, etc. Death Hunt is pretty ok. Never saw Cabo Blanco.

    • Continentalop says :

      I have a soft spot for DEATH HUNT. Because of Lee Marvin and Action Jackson.

      I also have a soft spot for 10 TO MIDNIGHT and THE EVIL THAT MEN DO because my pimp of an uncle owned them on laser disk and I saw them as a kid. Along with CRUISING, VICE SQUAD and HARDCORE. Good times.

      • Echo the Bunnyman says :

        You saw Cruising and Hardcore as a kid? Nice. I’m assuming first viewing of Thundercrack! wasn’t til later?

      • Continentalop says :

        I didn’t see THUNDERCRACK! until around college. But I saw a bunch of R-rated movies before I turned 11 – TAXI DRIVER, VICE SQUAD, DAWN OF THE DEAD, THE ROAD WARRIOR, TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE, THE EXTERMINATOR, THE HOWLING, etc.

        This probably explains a lot about me.

      • Echo the Bunnyman says :

        I had seen most of those –sans Vice Squad and Taxi Driver–before eleven as well. In the case of Road Warrior and Howling, it was far too young, but I didn’t turn out too bad. I recall parents covering my eyes in Howling when they realized opening was in a porn theater. It wasn’t the flesh-eating mutating wolves they were much worried about, just the flashes of skin and moaning on the soundtrack–which a covered hand does little for.

      • Continentalop says :

        My parents didn’t care what I watched as long as it was porn — or INFRAMAN, which my dad took us to see but hated. After that he’d just drop us of fat the theater.

        I remember when I was at most 10 and going to see TCM at a theater (back when things would have midnight shows for years) and the usher saying we needed parents approval. My dad yelled “Let them in” from the car, said he’d be back in two hours (2am) to pick us up and then took off.

        Nowadays my parents would probably get in trouble.

      • Continentalop says :

        As long as it WASN’T porn. Just want to fix that.

        My parents weren’t THAT weird.

      • Echo the Bunnyman says :

        My dad hated Inframan too, at first. Somehow he managed to rent it thinking it was a proper science fiction film or something–probably a John Carpenter deal–and then was horrified to find it was essentially a kiddie show. Of course, years went by and the pure stupidity of it grew on him. He still talks fondly of those moments where you can see the octopus mutants ‘skin’ tucked into his moon boots, or the giant rip in Inframan’s pants revealing his tighty-whities everytime he leaps through the air.

        And then there was Princess Dragon Mom…

  6. Continentalop says :

    Good review Jarv on an absolutely bad movie. All I remember of this film is that it got my dad to swear off Bronson. That is just sad.

  7. Echo the Bunnyman says :

    I cant even remember this one, but I do recall that exploding bad guy. Sounds like crap, and very indicative of that 87 through 90 timeframe where everyone had decided that the war on drugs would be mirrored in all action films as the root of all evil from herein on out. I’m almost genuinely surprised that the fifth Star Trek film didn’t feature an alien drug-pusher instead of that ‘Great Beyond’ nonsense.

  8. Echo the Bunnyman says :

    Also, that poster you have at the top is hilarious in the movie it’s seemingly selling. If you were to go strictly off that, you’d assume that once Winner left they decided to drop the idea that Kersey was ‘sorta like’ Jason Vorhees and was just straight-up now the bogeyman coming to kill yuppie children. Look at all of them in the background cowering in fear.

  9. Judge Droid says :

    I like in that GIF how the explosion clearly begins behind the dummy. The rocket shoots under his right armpit and explodes about a metre behind him. I love these kind of stupid practical effects. Like the guys bouncing off springboards reacting to hand grenades in Commando. That stuff adds to the cheese, which adds to the entertainment.

    • Echo the Bunnyman says :

      the springboards in Commando are hilarious. All of Commando is hilarious, of course. Its an awesome action movie and the spoof the same action movie, all at the same time.

      • Judge Droid says :

        Which is how I justified giving Commando an inexplicably high rating of 3 1/2 Changs out of 4!

      • Echo the Bunnyman says :

        Movies always have two ratings I feel…the one that might be objectively right–even though that one is still heavily subjective–and the one that represents how we really feel about it personally.

        I think Fifth Element is like that for me. It’s a three star movie, at best, from a critical perspective, but for some reason I love it enough it’s got that extra half-star tacked on.

        BTW, did you ever get through the Arnie series? I don’t recall now. I don’t recall seeing reviews for Junior and Jingle All The Way but maybe I just missed them.

      • Judge Droid says :

        Oh yeah, I’ve absolutely reviewed Jingle All The Way and Junior. I’ve also reviewed Batman and Robin, The 6th Day, Terminator 3, Escape Plan and Sabotage. You must have missed them.

      • Jarv says :

        Aren’t you stuck on Kindergarten Cop?

      • Echo the Bunnyman says :

        End of Days and Collateral Damage? At this point, you should just scoot around and cherry-pick starting with least painful and working back.

        That would mean you can do Maggie and then, I dunno, it’s a toss-up between 6th Day and Terminator 3. Unless there’s still Eraser and True Lies to go.

      • Jarv says :

        I feel like that about DW3. Objectively, it’s terrible. Yet it’s awesome, hilarious and massively entertaining

      • Echo the Bunnyman says :

        And I love you have a pic of the springboards! Win!

      • Echo the Bunnyman says :

        I guess Last Stand was alright too. Not good, but ok.

      • Judge Droid says :

        I’m doing it chronologically. So I can’t really cherry pick.

      • Echo the Bunnyman says :

        so it is, I thought you jumped over K-Cop but I see it was later same year as TR.

      • Echo the Bunnyman says :

        Maggie is really departure entirely from the rest of his filmography. Basically his Copland, but perhaps even further removed than that Stallone flick.

        What did you think of Escape Plan? I thought it was drivel, but had a few moments. Should have been set in space.

      • Judge Droid says :

        I was really bored by Escape Plan. Yeah it was good to see Arnie and Sly in the same movie but apart from that it was a bit of a chore to get through. It ain’t no Heat.

      • Echo the Bunnyman says :

        thankfully,though, it was no Sabotage. That might honestly be the nadir of Arnie’s career. As bad as Herc in New York is, its more inept and I found Sabotage sort of hateful.

      • Judge Droid says :

        Sabotage is definitely hateful.

      • Judge Droid says :

        Last Stand was the most entertaining of his comeback movies (I haven’t seen Maggie yet). It wasn’t particularly good but it wasn’t boring.

      • Echo the Bunnyman says :

        Last Stand was ok…it was odd because not really Arnie’s movie, persay. Half of that entertainment came from watching Luis Guzman’s portly little frame scooting out in front of massive explosions.

      • Just Pillow Talk says :

        Sabatoge is horrible, plain and simple. Escape Plan is rather forgettable, but Jonah is right, space would have been the ideal location for the two of them to escape from. A space prison would have been a better place to break out from. And just have them both be criminals.

    • tombando says :

      Commando has the exploding, manned guard tower he couldn’t posssibly have Mined given the timeframe etc, the perfectly undented cardoors of the car he’d just wrecked, and the hollow redwood log he just lugged around like it was balsa…

      Murphy’s Law was just… bad. Crossbow chick from hell, foulmouthed Lindsay Lohan sidekick type, Chuck in a Copter? I saw this in ’87.

      Messenger of Death featured Jeff Corey, homicidal Mormons, ummm forgot the rest.

      Borderline from ’80 was ok.

      • Toadkillerdog says :

        Inframan, was a damn strange flick even for a child when i saw it. I just remember thinking it was weird but i liked the gong fu.
        Last stand was decent. Guzman did a good job.
        Commando has the awesome that is rae dawn chong who owned the mid 80’s b movies
        escape plan sucked
        did not see sabotage
        guiltily admit that expendables 3 was enjoyable, always good to see wesley

  10. Toadkillerdog says :

    Jarv, have not and will not see it but “Death wish 4 fucking sucks” killed me!

    Good job!

  11. ThereWolf says :

    No, definitely not seen this one. Surely got to be worth a look if only for Exploding Bad Guy though. Might lovefilm it.

    Good stuff, Jarv.

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