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The Gratuitous B-Movie Column: Death Wish 4: The Crackdown

March 23, 2018 | Posted by Bryan Kristopowitz
Death Wish 4

The Gratuitous B-Movie Column Issue #454: Death Wish 4: The Crackdown

The Death Wish Marathon: Week 4

Hello, everyone, and welcome once again to the internets movie review column that has never tried to play one side off the other in order to achieve something, The Gratuitous B-Movie Column, and I am your host Bryan Kristopowitz. In this issue, issue number four hundred and fifty-four, the Death Wish Marathon continues with Death Wish 4: The Crackdown, which hit movie screens in the late fall of 1987.

Death Wish 4: The Crackdown

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Death Wish 4: The Crackdown, directed by frequent Charles Bronson collaborator J. Lee Thompson (Thompson worked with Bronson nine times), has Bronson’s architect/vigilante Paul Kersey back in Los Angeles, trying to live the quiet life with his reporter girlfriend Karen Sheldon (Kay Lenz) and her teen daughter Erica (Dana Barron). Kersey loves Karen and looks at Erica as his own daughter. So when Erica dies from a drug overdose, Kersey breaks out the handgun and starts looking for the guy who gave Erica the drugs. He follows Erica’s douchebag boyfriend Randy (Jesse Dabson) to the local teen hangout (an arcade/amusement park/roller skating rink) and finds out that Erica got the drugs there, from a guy named JoJo (Hector Mercado). Kersey goes after JoJo when JoJo stabs Randy (Randy threatens to go to the cops with what he knows about JoJo’s drug dealing operation) and, after some cat and mouse, Kersey shoots JoJo in public. Kersey probably didn’t want to do it, since he isn’t too keen on being “the vigilante” anymore (he has a nightmare at the beginning of the movie where he shoots dead a gang of rapists in a parking garage and then sees himself as one of the people he shot. Very strange), but JoJo killed Erica. It was something that had to be done.

So then some time passes, Karen and Kersey get through Erica’s funeral, and Karen decides that she wants to report on the city’s drug problem. Karen’s boss doesn’t think it’s a good idea for a story, but he eventually allows her to pursue her idea because her daughter died. Kersey, meanwhile, finds a strange envelope at his home with a note saying “I know who you are.” Then there’s a phone call from someone demanding a meeting. Kersey wants nothing to do with whomever the hell is contacting him, but he agrees to the meeting to find out what, exactly, is going on. Kersey is taken via limo to a swanky mansion where he meets a man named Nathan White (John P. Ryan). White claims to be a rich man who wants revenge on the drug dealers who destroyed his family and he wants Kersey to help him get it. White knows that Kersey is the vigilante and knows he’s good at taking out the bad guys (White knows all about Kersey taking out JoJo). Who better than the vigilante to be his personal assassin?

At first, Kersey isn’t interested in being anyone’s hitman, but he eventually agrees to work for White after White threatens to take what he knows to the cops. Kersey just can’t have that. He would much rather kill some bad guys. So who does White want Kersey to kill? Ed Zacharias (Perry Lopez) and the Romero brothers (Jack and Tony, as played by Mike Moroff and Dan Ferro). Zacharias and the Romeros are the two biggest drug dealing operations in Los Angeles and are the ones responsible for White’s ruined family. White wants Kersey to infiltrate both gangs and kill as many of them as he can while playing the gangs off of one another. See, the two gangs are in the middle of an uneasy truce and are constantly on the verge of going to war. If Kersey can start some shit with both gangs, maybe he can get the ones he doesn’t kill himself to kill one another.

So Kersey starts shit with both gangs, killing members from each one using intelligence and weaponry supplied by White. As that happens, two LAPD detectives, Reiner (George Dickerson) and Nozaki (the great Soon-Tek Oh) suspect that the vigilante has come out of retirement. They start with JoJo’s death and try to connect every subsequent murder to the vigilante while also trying to figure out who the vigilante actually is. They suspect it’s Kersey after questioning him at random, but they don’t have enough evidence to make a decision one way or another.

And while all of that is happening, Karen starts digging deep into the city’s drug problem. Drugs are rampant everywhere in the city, hitting every age and class imaginable (the tour she takes of the city morgue is sobering as fuck). She heads to the place Erica overdosed and starts paying for information from a drug dealer named Jesse (Tim Russ).

Kersey makes short work of both gangs and their drug operations, killing various associates in creative ways (a bomb inside a wine bottle? Brilliant). When Kersey gets the gangs to kill one another in a final shootout in an oil field, he tries to tell White that the job is finished. White is suddenly unavailable, though. In fact, Kersey finds eventually finds out that Nathan White isn’t the real Nathan White at all. The Nathan White Kersey knows is someone else entirely, someone more sinister and awful than Ed Zacharias or the Romero brothers.

Death Wish 4: The Crackdown is a terrific action thriller. It’s generally well-acted, the action scenes are exciting but never ridiculous (not that having ridiculous action scenes is a bad thing. Death Wish 3 is awesome because it’s ridiculous. The Crackdown is more interested in being realistic than anything else, or as close as you can get to being realistic in a movie like Death Wish 4), and there’s a great twist towards the end that still works after multiple viewings. It’s also one of the most watchable and rewatchable movies in the Cannon Films library. There’s no fat in the story or the action. The Crackdown is as lean and mean as it gets. And that’s all due to director Thompson. He knows what he’s doing and knows how to get from point A to point B without wasting time and he gets the most out of the resources he has. The final action sequence is a thing of beauty. Thompson wrings out as much suspense and tension as he can, and makes a roller rink one of the scariest places in the world. Big Chuck Bronson may be stalking that rink carrying an M-16 with an M203 grenade launcher attachment, but it may not be enough for whatever is waiting for him in the fog. Awesome stuff.

The movie’s soundtrack is strange as it’s mostly made up of cues from other Cannon films, like Invasion U.S.A. and Missing in Action. The opening and closing themes are original, but the bulk of the music is stuff you’ve heard before (Bronson’s Assassination did the same thing). The repurposed cues work, but I would have loved to have heard a more consistent score throughout. But then the music you hear while Kersey walks with his sniper rifle, stalking Zacharias, always works. Always.

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Bronson is in top form here again as Kersey. He’s a few years older than he was in Death Wish 3, but he can still kick ass and take names with the best of them. Shootouts, fist fights (the fish factory sequence is great stuff from start to finish), you just don’t fuck with Paul Kersey, man. His best “acting” scene? When he uses the grenade launcher on White at the end. The anguish on his face after watching his girlfriend Karen shot dead is heartbreaking. It should be a triumphant moment. He’s blowing a guy up with a fucking grenade launcher. It isn’t a triumphant moment, though. It’s sad. And then things get even sadder when Kersey walks away, alone, again. If you don’t feel for Kersey at that moment there’s something wrong with you.

John P. Ryan is amazing as Nathan White. At first, he’s some rich guy trying to exact revenge on the scumbags that destroyed his family. You may not agree with his methods (blackmail is never cool) but you can understand why he would do something like that. And when you find out what he’s really up to, man, you can’t wait to see him die. He’s the biggest piece of shit in the entire world. And Ryan does such a great job moving from kindly old man to douchebag loudmouth drug dealer. He makes both Nathan Whites distinct individuals. I’ve seen the movie multiple times and I still can’t believe Nathan White is so damn horrible. It just doesn’t seem possible. But then he puts on those loud clothes and starts yelling into the phone and you get to see the real Nathan White. Definitely one of Ryan’s best career performances.

Kay Lenz does a decent job as Kersey’s doomed girlfriend Karen. I would have loved to see more of her investigative work into the LA drug scene, but it isn’t her movie, it’s Bronson’s, so I get why she basically disappears for like forty minutes. It’s a damn shame what happens to her at the end. And it’s a damn shame what happens to Dana Barron’s Erica, too. Why the hell was she hanging out with a douchebag like Jesse Dabson’s Randy?

Perry Lopez is sleazy as hell as Ed Zacharias. He’s kind of funny, too, in that scumbag mob boss kind of way. Mike Moroff and Dan Ferro don’t do as well as the Romeros as they don’t have enough time to show off who they are outside of the drug running business. And poor Moroff, 1987 wasn’t his year. He gets his ass kicked by Robocop and then shot dead in an oil field gang shootout. Goddamn.

George Dickerson and Soon-Tek Oh do a good job as the LAPD detectives looking into the vigilante. I like how Dickerson’s Detective Reiner always seems to be on the verge of a breakdown of some sort (and that’s before Oh’s Nozaki turns out to be not quite on the up and up). And Soon-Tek Oh is always great regardless of the movie and the Chuck he has to do battle with. I love the guy.

And then there’s David Fonteno as Frank Bauggs, the mob assassin. His big sequence, where we see him argue with his girlfriend (is her name Connie Hair?), is hilarious. He’s such an asshole to her, but she gives it right back to him. They argue, they act like they hate one another (he calls her fat and ignorant, she tells him to drop dead multiple times), and yet they have that little moment right before they get on the elevator where they smile at one another and he pats her on the ass. They really do love one another. Think about what we could have seen in a spin off if Kersey didn’t knock Frank out the window. It would have been the comedy-drama of the 1980’s.

Oh, and be on the lookout for Danny Trejo in one of his first roles. And Mitch Pileggi shows up, too.

Death Wish 4: The Crackdown is a great action thriller. Every part of it works to damn near perfection. It’s the kind of movie I wish Hollywood still made in abundance, and it showed what star Bronson and director Thompson could do when they were on their “A” game. I love this movie.

See Death Wish 4: The Crackdown. See it, see it, goddamn see it.

So what do we have here?

Dead bodies: 52

Explosions: Several, large and small.

Nudity?: None.

Doobage: Very loud shoes on pavement, a car that just refuses to start, a full on assault in a parking garage, attempted rape, killing thugs because it’s what needs to be done, a nightmare, drug dealing everywhere, off screen cocaine overdose, attempted revival, a tail, gut stabbing, electrocution, a pretty nice house, a sad cocaine story, off screen funeral, a depressing as fuck morgue tour of dead children involved in drugs, a police interrogation, a sweet birthday party, an erotic cake, hot babes in bikinis everywhere, more gut stabbing, body carrying, attempted murder, crowbar to the chest, car trunk to the back of the neck, a bomb hidden in a wine bottle, wine tasting, exploding table, killing a guy in an awesome video store, hamburger eating, a story about a hitman who forgot to load his gun, multiple phone taps, multiple ass kickings, TV smashing, falling out a window onto a car, a movie theatre that really isn’t a movie theatre, Uzi hooey, lunchbox to the face, fish cutting, drug removal, exploding drug lab, Uzi used as a club, truck stealing, attempted assassination, off screen body moving, a big meeting in the oil fields, sniper hooey, a shootout, exploding truck, a great bit where a guy gets shot and then crashes headfirst through a car window, bullet to the chest, window shooting, exploding limo, a big twist, a wild flip, kidnapping, a major arsenal behind the refrigerator, parking garage siege, exploding van, exploding car, mild bondage, a shootout in an arcade, exploding video games, chain link fence hooey, scared kids, Uzi to the back, a major grenade attack, and a sad walk alone.

Kim Richards?: Yes, off screen.

Gratuitous: Parking garage, reused music, Charles Bronson, Charles Bronson wearing a trench coat and killing thugs, Charles Bronson having a nightmare, Dana Barron, bumper cars, Soon-Tek Oh, Mark Pellegrino, a blue car, John P. Ryan, Charles Bronson infiltrating multiple drug gangs so he can destroy them from the inside, guy putting out a birthday candle on his tongue, Charles Bronson serving drinks, Danny Trejo, wine drinking, Charles Bronson walking into a video store, a Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part 2 video store standee, Cannon Films movie posters on the wall, Irwin Keyes, fish processing, Mitch Pileggi, Charles Bronson going apeshit with an Uzi, a shootout in an oil field, Charles Bronson getting locked inside of a limo, Charles Bronson pissed off, Charles Bronson having an arsenal of weapons behind his refrigerator, an “I Love New Wave” bumper sticker, a major grenade attack, and a sad walk alone.

Best lines: “Who the fuck are you? Death,” “Remember, there’s just enough for you, so don’t go telling your boyfriend,” “Hey!,” “Hey, I ain’t a fucking detective. You are,” “I’m not going anywhere until you tell me who you are and what the hell this is about,” “Mr. Kersey,” “Does the name Nathan White mean anything to you?,” “You see, she started using cocaine,” “How many children do we let them destroy before we say enough, Mr. Kersey?,” “It’s not your fault Erica died, it’s those damn drugs!,” “If they don’t care we have to make them care!,” “Thirteen years old?,” “They’re all children!,” “Hey! Brake to the left!,” “Come on, Phil, the vigilante retired years ago,” “Jesus, the vigilante. Well, let’s check them out,” “So what do you think? I think we better find out more about our Mr. Paul Kersey,” “How was the candle? Better than the cake,” “How was Colombia?,” “Like I said, I don’t like trouble,” “What’s your name? My name is Leo,” “I know you, I never forget a face,” “What the fuck is going on?,” “What do you want? You,” “How many? How many what? How many children have you killed with this shit?,” “Well, how do I look? Like shit,” “Fuck you and the horse you rode in on. You already did. You came in second,” “I thought he was in such a hurry. He’s probably in the john playing with himself,” “Come on out, asshole! Come on out!,” “What the fuck are you doing in here? I was making a sandwich,” “He’s such a jerk I wish he’d drop dead,” “A thousand bucks! Get the sonofabitch now!,” “You work for Ed Zacharias?,” “I don’t work for anyone! This is my work!,” “I can be very, very nasty if I want to be. So can I,” “You wanted to talk? Talk,” “Who are you? I’m the guy that set you up. Why? I don’t even know the girl. I do,” “I’m sorry sir, but he has a gun,” “Are you fucking deaf? I said everything’s great!,” “You killed a cop, Kersey. Not just any cop. My partner. And now I’m gonna kill you,” ”You’ve got nice taste in women, Kersey. Very nice,” “Jesus! Christ!,” “I’ll blow her brains out! I swear to God I’ll kill this bitch!,” “I told you! I warned you I’d kill her!,” and “Stop right there! Goddamit, I’ll shoot! Do whatever you have to.”

Rating: 10.0/10.0

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The Gratuitous B-Movie Column: The Facebook Page!

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Check out my review of the new Death Wish starring Bruce Willis!

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Death Wish remake review!

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Things to Watch Out For This Week

TheSandman

The Sandman: This low budget horror flick apparently stars Haylie Duff and John Kramer hisself, Tobin Bell, and according to imdb Amanda Wyss and Paul Logan are in it, too. The movie is all about a young girl who somehow conjures up a monster from one of her nightmares into the real world and then some bad stuff happens. I think it looks kind of cool, especially the monster (the monster doesn’t look like a CGI creation, which is a plus in this day and age of overwhelming CGI). And Stan Lee is listed/advertised as a producer on it, so it has his seal of approval (if that kind of thing matters to you). Definitely want to check this out.

Caged

Caged: The fine folks at MTI Home Video are behind this particular horror release, a low budget British movie about a woman who finds out that someone is making snuff movies out in the desert in Spain. That’s a messed up premise. And when you realize that the woman is herself some sort of killer, it makes the movie sound even more messed up. It makes you wonder how often that kind of thing happens in the world of underground snuff movies and whatnot. Why wouldn’t the killer woman want to get in on the snuff movie making? Looks rentable.

NightmareAtNoon

Nightmare at Noon: Until the fine folks at Shout! Factory/Scream Factory announced that they were releasing this on Blu-ray I had never heard of it. It looks like something that should have been in every video store back in the day, but I don’t remember ever seeing it in any of the ones that I frequented. It seems like an amped up version of George A. Romero’s The Crazies, with a town’s water supply becoming contaminated, although in the case of Noon the contamination is done deliberately by evil scientists because they’re evil. Wings Hauser, Bo Hopkins, George Kennedy, and Brion James are in it, as top notch a B-movie cast that could have been assembled. With the flamethrowers, gun battles, explosions, and stunts on display in the trailer, this movie looks absolutely insane. So where the hell has it been hiding? Anyone out there see this, either as Nightmare at Noon or as Death Street USA?

TheBurbsShout

The ‘Burbs: This is an absolute classic from the late 1980’s, a dark comedy starring Tom Hanks and directed by the great Joe Dante. Just who the heck are the Klopeks, the weird beard family that just moved in next door to Tom Hanks’s Ray Peterson? Are they just as weird as they seem or is something else going on with them? Watch to find out. This particular home video release comes from Shout! Factory’s Shout Select line and it’s chock full of special features, including interviews with Dante and other people who participated in making the movie, a documentary about the making of the movie, the alternate ending, and the original workprint from Joe Dante’s archives (this apparently has deleted and extended scenes). This sounds like a definitive look at the movie. An absolute must have.

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Ash vs. Evil Dead is back!

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Check out my reviews for the third season below!

Episode 1
Episode 2
Episode 3
Episode 4

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B-Movie News

RogerCorman

Shout! Factory buys Roger Corman movie library: Last week, it was announced that the fine folks at Shout! Factory had teamed up with Chinese company Ace Film to buy the rights to the great Roger Corman’s New Horizons Pictures library, which apparently includes around 270 movies (a TV show is also part of the deal, which I assume is the show Corman did for Sci Fi, Black Scorpion). As part of the deal, Shout and Ace plan on remaking several of the New Horizons movies while also releasing the originals on home video (and from what I gather, some of the movies that could be released haven’t been released on new home video in years). There’s also some kind of “syndication” deal in the works, which I assume means that the New Horizon movies will be licensed via some kind of package to TV and streaming networks. I’d imagine that some of those over-the-air digital sub-channel networks like Charge and Comet would like to get the rights to show Corman’s stuff.

Now, why did Corman make this deal? I have no idea. I would assume that the money offered to him was just too good to pass up, plus it sounds like Corman wanted to make sure that his movies were a part of the ongoing content wars. And, heck, Shout continues to put out killer DVD and Blu-ray discs, and who wouldn’t want new Corman DVD and Blu-rays of his stuff?

Check out the full article at the AV Club.

JoeBobBriggsMonstervision

Joe Bob is “close” to coming back!: According to this article over at Bloody Disgusting, Monstervision with Joe Bob Briggs is “close” to coming back. Joe Bob himself wrote on Twitter, in response to a fan’s question regarding the return of Monstervision on Shudder, “All I can say, Garth, is that we’re getting really, really close.”

“Really, really close”? That’s not quite “it’s happening,” but it’s the closest we’ve been to having Joe Bob back since the TNT cancelled the show back in 2000. Holy crap, that was eighteen years ago.

This has to happen. And if and when it does happen, I’ll have to break down and get involved in this streaming stuff with Shudder. That’s how big a deal it will be.

The world needs Joe Bob Briggs back on some kind of TV. It really does.

DonCoscarelli

Don Coscarelli has a book coming out: According to this article over at Entertainment Weekly, Coscarelli’s book is a memoir called True Indie: Life and Death in Film Making and it will be available this fall (October 2nd is the announced release date but that could change). Coscarelli will apparently talk about his life as a movie maker and offer up his recollections on everything he’s done, from Jim the World’s Greatest to the Phantasm franchise to everything else he’s done. The one thing I hope the book gets into is what the hell Coscarelli does when he isn’t actually making a movie. Is he a shrewd investor in the stock market? Does he have access to a vault full of gold that allows him to make movies whenever he damn well feels like it? How much money could he possibly make from royalties and residuals and running that Phantasm website?

If Coscarelli doesn’t get into any of that stuff, I’d imagine the anecdotes and advice he gives about making movies will be worth the price of buying the book. I know I plan on reading it once it’s available.

Am I the only one who wonders about this stuff?

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Who is the Douchebag of the Week? Go here and find out!

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Next Issue: The Death Wish Marathon concludes with Death Wish 5: The Face of Death!

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Interviews

david j. moore
Jino Kang
Vladimir Kulich
Paul Mormando
Shahin Sean Solimon
Michael Matteo Rossi
Tyrone Magnus
Hector Barron
Jeffrey Orgill
Michael Baumgarten
R. Marcos Taylor
Don “The Dragon” Wilson
Paul Kyriazi
Eric Jacobus
Juju Chan
Luke LaFontaine
Marco Siedlemann
Sam Firstenberg
Amariah Olson
Alexander Nevsky
Mathias Hues
Kristanna Loken
Steve Mitchell
Albert Pyun
Brad Thornton
Mathieu Ratthe
Damien Power
Kelsey Carlisle
Mike Dwyer
Nicholas Bushman
Brahim Achabbakhe
Etcetera
Richard LeMay
Andrew David Barker
Cynthia Rothrock
Leslie Simpson
C. Courtney Joyner
Shahin Sean Solimon (2)
Eric Miller
Alexander Nevsky (2)
Christopher Lawrence Chapman
James Mark
Casper Van Dien
Chris Mark
James E. Wilson
Barry Hunt
Vincent J. Roth
Mathew Ziff
Brandon Tyler Russell

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Follow me on Twitter!

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Well, I think that’ll be about it for now. Don’t forget to sign up with disqus if you want to comment on this article and any other 411 article. You know you want to, so just go do it.

B-movies rule. Always remember that.

Death Wish 4: The Crackdown

Charles Bronson– Paul Kersey
Kay Lenz– Karen Sheldon
John P. Ryan– Nathan White
Perry Lopez– Ed Zacharias
George Dickerson– Detective Reiner
Soon-Tek Oh– Detective Phil Nozaki
Dana Barron– Erica Sheldon
Jesse Dabson– Randy
Mike Moroff– Jack Romero
Dan Ferro– Tony Romero
David Fonteno– Frank Bauggs
Irwin Keyes– Bauggs’ Chauffeur
Tim Russ– Jesse
Hector Mercado– JoJo Ross
Danny Trejo– Art Sanella

Directed by J. Lee Thompson
Screenplay by Gail Morgan Hickman, based on characters created by Brian Garfield

Distributed by Cannon Film Distributors, Image Entertainment, Media Home Entertainment, and MGM Home Entertainment

Rated R for graphic violence, language, and disturbing scenes,
Runtime– 100 minutes

Buy it here

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