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Blu-Ray Review: Kino Lorber’s Death Wish 4: The Crackdown (KL Studio Classics)

Death Wish 4 The Crack Down

Charles Bronson takes on Crack and not one or two but three Drug Dealers to get his vengeance in Death Wish 4: The Crackdown.  New to Blu-ray from Kino Lorber.  

The Film 

Bronson be piping mad at the crack, and cracking down on the crack epidemic.  

That’s really all you need to know about J. Lee Thompson’s entry into the Death Wish series.  Taking over for Bronson’s other choice director Michael Winner, Thompson loses the extra-extra Sadism and Rape obsession (almost) for a film that’s a play on Yojimbo (or as most cineastes want to claim; A Few Dollars More).  What’s not missing is the cartoonish almost satirical violence, panache for villainy, and criminality that feels like it was the inspiration for the GTA series.  

Bronson’s Paul Kersey is alternately the unluckiest man in the world and the luckiest cis white male of all time.  How Kersey after three murder-filled streaks of vengeance (one in New York that literally decimated four city blocks, all to the soundtrack of Jimmy “Led Zepplin” Page’s roaring guitar and compositional weirdness) is still roaming around can only be attributed to his white male privilege and killing of what people of the 80s thought were the dredges of society.  

Anywho, he’s back in L.A. living the good life as an Architech again.  He’s even got a new lady friend, who of course has a daughter.  It’s like Karma is trying to teach Kersey a lesson in turning the other cheek because, in two shakes of a lamb’s tail (end of the first act), the daughter is a goner.  Why?  Crack baby, crack.  Kersey goes into action.  But this time he has help from a wealthy New Paper Owner, remember those, Nathan White (John P Ryan) with a grudge against those drug dealers too. 

Together they form a strike force.  White gives Kersey the details.  Kersey executes them, literally!  The plan is to get two rival gangs, one Italian and one Latino, to start a war against one another.  Though in a mid-film twist, there’s a third entity that was there pulling the string all along.  It’s one of the clever bits of screenwriting from Gail Morgan Hickman’s screenplay that’s three steps away from being a Rambo and the Forces of Freedom episode.  The story is aided by Thompson’s astute economic direction.  

Bronson is Bronson here.  Stoic or Stone-faced depending on your love of one of the Chucks that made Cannon Films.  Kersey here has gotten to the point where he’s Jason Vorhees for the 1980s action set.  All they need to do is activate him to ensue a maximum amount of carnage.  If Death Wish 3 is the Jason Takes Manhattan of the DW series, then The Crackdown is certainly Jason Goes to Hell.  How does one critique the performance of Jason?  You can’t and so I won’t other than to say Bronson knew exactly what he was doing and what his audience wanted.  He delivered time and time again, no matter the shenanigans that Golan and Globus pulled.  

Death Wish 4: The Crackdown ends as one would think it would in a roller-skating rink with Bronson vs the Final Boss.  Though like others in the series it ends in the most unexpected dour ways. 

The Transfer

The transfer, unknown if new or from an existing older one, is a beautifully rendered cinematically looking image.  The film looks like a pristine 35mm archival print – with minor defects giving the image more character than a spotless DNR’ed to death image.  Fans of the film will delight in the image’s uptick in quality from the prior – 20th Century Fox Discs and having the disc did a sampling of both images – Blu-ray release.   

The Extras

They include the following;

  • Audio Commentary by Film Historian Paul Talbot, the Author of the BRONSON’S LOOSE! Books
  • Theatrical Trailer

The Audio Commentary by Film Historian Paul Talbot, the Author of the BRONSON’S LOOSE! Books opens the track with his bonafides and heads into this well-researched and informative track.  Some of the details include the score written by Bronson’s stepsons; the first film to not be directed by Michael Winner; details about the underground parking garage nightmare that opens the film; the development of the script and the various different treatments that were rejected and why they were rejected; how Golan and Globus got to Charles Bronson to return for a fourth time to play Kersey; the reasons why Michael Winner did not return for the fourth entry; the development of the script by screenwriter Hickman – including him being on set for the production; the production schedule and budget – the lack of a budget and how that affected the movie in its design and visual look; Bronson’s salary and contract stipulations; the issues the film had with the ratings board to secure an R-Rating; a larger discussion of the various deleted scenes and moments from the first cute; a larger discussion of the various guns that are used within the film; Talbot throughout discusses the various actors, stunt people, and behind the scenes crew that worked on the production; and more. If there’s anyone you want to comment on a Bronson starring vehicle its Talbot.  

Rounding out the special features are trailers for Death Wish 4: The Crackdown (1:34), Death Wish (2:20), Death Wish 5: The Face of Death (1:00), The White Buffalo (1:52), Murphy’s Law (1:30), Assassination (1:58) 

The Final Thought 

Death Wish 4: The Crackdown for the discerning 80s action fan.  Recommended.  

Kino Lorber’s Blu-Ray edition of Death Wish 4: The Crack Down is out now. 

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