Bronson’s Rich: Death Wish 4: The Crackdown (1987, directed by J. Lee Thompson)


To quote The Main With No Name, “When a man’s got money in his pocket, he begins to appreciate peace.”

Two years have passed since Paul Kersey (Charles Bronson) last visited and cleaned up New York.  He is back in Los Angeles, the president of his own successful architectural firm.  Now a rich man, he has retired from killing criminals, though he still has dreams where he shoots muggers in parking garages.  Paul has a new girlfriend, journalist Karen Sheldon (Kay Lenz).  When Karen’s teenage daughter, Erica (Dana Barron), dies of a cocaine overdose, it’s time for Paul to get his gun out of storage and blow away a drug dealer.

Shortly after shooting that drug dealer, Paul finds a note on his front porch.  “I know who you are,” it reads.  Paul then gets a call from a mysterious man (John P. Ryan) who identifies himself as being a reclusive millionaire named Nathan White.  Nathan explains that his daughter also died of a cocaine overdose.  He wants to hire Paul to take out not just the drug dealers but also the men behind the dealers, the bosses.  Using his vast resources, Nathan has prepared a file on every major drug operation in Los Angeles.  He offers to share the information with Paul.

“I’ll need a few days to think about it,” Paul says but we all know he’s going to accept Nathan’s offer just as surely as we know that Nathan White has an ulterior motive that won’t be revealed until the movie’s final twenty minutes.

For the first time, Paul is no longer just targeting muggers and other street criminals.  This time, Paul is going after the guys in charge and trying to bring an end to drug trade once and for all.  (The idea that the best way to win the war on drugs was just to kill anyone involved in the drug trade was a very popular one in the late 80s.)  L.A.’s two major drug cartels are led by Ed Zacharias (Perry Lopez) and the Romero Brothers (Mike Moroff and Dan Ferro).  Along with their own activities, Paul and Young work the turn the two cartels against each other.

It’s not just the criminals that have changed in Death Wish 4.  Paul has changed, too.  Paul used to just shoot criminals and run away.  In Death Wish 4, he gets more creative.  He sneaks into Zacharias’s mansion and bugs the phone so that he can keep track of what’s going down.  When it comes time to kill a table full of drug dealers (one of whom is played by Danny Trejo), Paul doesn’t shoot them up.  Instead, he sends them a bottle of champagne that explodes when they open it.  By the end of the movie, Paul is blowing away the bad guys with a grenade launcher!  How many former conscientious objectors can brag about that?

The biggest difference between Death Wish 4 and the films that came before it is the absence of director Michael Winner.  Winner and Bronson had a falling out following Death Wish 3 and, as a result, Winner had little interest in returning to the franchise.  Instead, Winner was replaced by J. Lee Thompson, who had already directed Bronson in several other Cannon films.  As a result, Death Wish 4 is less “heavy” than the previous Death Wish films.  Whereas Winner’s direction often felt mean-spirited and exploitive, Thompson plays up the film’s sense of airy adventure.

Though it barely made a profit at the box office and has been dismissed by critics, Death Wish 4 is an enjoyable chapter in Paul’s story.  If you’re looking for mindless 80s mayhem, Death Wish 4 gets the job done with admirable efficiency.  It would have made a great ending for the franchise but Bronson would return to the role one last time.

Tomorrow: Death Wish V: The Face of Death!

A Movie A Day #136: Missing in Action 2: The Beginning (1985, directed by Lance Hool)


Goddamn, dude.  Chuck Fucking Norris.  Even when the movie is terrible, Chuck is cool.

That is especially relevant when it comes to a movie like Missing In Action 2: The Beginning.  Produced by Cannon Films and shot back-to-back with the first Missing in Action, The Beginning was supposed to come out first.  However, Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus took a look at the two movies and realized that The Beginning would work better as the 2nd film in the series.  They were right though some post-production tinkering did lead to some serious errors in continuity.

(Not that anyone watching a Golan/Globus production would be worrying about continuity.)

Did you ever wonder how James Braddock (Chuck Norris) became a POW in the first place?  No?  Missing In Action 2 is going to show you how it happened anyway.  It turns out that he and his men were captured, in 1972, by the Viet Cong when their helicopter crashed into a lake.  At the start of the movie, Chuck only has a mustache.  If Chuck had been fully bearded, there is no way the VC could have captured him.  After Chuck and his men have spent ten years in a jungle prison, where they are forced to pick poppies for a French heroin drug lord, Chuck has grown a full beard and is finally strong enough to escape from the prison, rescue his men, and defeat the sadistic camp commandant (Soon-Tek Oh) in hand-to-hand combat.  None of it is surprising but there’s enough weird stuff, like the prostitutes that the French drug dealer flies into the camp and the Australian journalist who shows up out of nowhere and is executed ten minutes later, to keep it interesting.  Chuck is as stiff as always but he’s good in the action scenes and gets to show off some sweet karate moves towards the end of the movie.  Supposedly, Chuck viewed the Missing in Action films as a tribute to his brother, Wieland, who was killed in Vietnam.

The continuity error has to do with the amount of time that Braddock and his men spend in the camp.  After Chuck is captured in 1972, the film inserts some footage of Ronald Reagan giving a speech about the men who never returned from Vietnam.  A narrator says that the Americans are still wondering what happened to the thousands of soldiers who were reported as being MIA in Vietnam.  The implication is that Chuck and company spent ten years in the POW Camp, which means that they escaped in 1982.  Since it is said, in Missing in Action, that it has been ten years since Chuck escaped, that means that Missing in Action actually took place in 1992.  But if Chuck and the boys escaped and returned to America in 1982 then why, in 1992, was everyone so convinced that all the POWs were released immediately after the Vietnam War?

Fortunately, Chuck Norris is so cool that it doesn’t matter what year it is.

Chuck Norris, man.

Chuck Fucking Norris.

A Movie A Day #66: Deadly Game (1991, directed by Thomas J. Wright)


Seven strangers are invited to a remote island by a mysterious billionaire named Osiris.  There is a doctor, a dancer, an auto mechanic, a mercenary, a football player and his agent, and a member of the Yakuza.  The auto mechanic points out that, in Egyptian mythology, Osiris judged mankind’s sins.  For some reason, none of the seven think twice about going to the island but, once they arrive, they soon discover that they should have.  Osiris is willing to give them seven million dollars but to get it, they have to reach the other end of the island without being killed by Osiris or his men.

Of the many movie adaptations of The Most Dangerous Game, this is probably the worst.  The cast, which includes Michael Beck, Marc Singer, Jenny Seagrove, Mitch Ryan, John Pleshette, Soon-Tek Oh, and Roddy McDowall, isn’t bad but the script is terrible, full of overwrought dialogue and plot holes.  Across the island, Osiris has left clues that are designed to trigger flashbacks and lead to each member of the seven explaining what it is that they did in the past.  But for that to work, Osiris would have to know exactly what route the seven of them were going to use to cross the island and he would also have to know who would still be alive by the time that they came across each clue.  Also, whenever they come across the clue, everyone stands around and wastes valuable time arguing about it.  Considering that there are armed men trying to kill them, no one seems to be in that much of a hurry to make it to the other side of the island.  The flashbacks themselves are interesting in how clumsily they are put together.  40ish Marc Singer plays himself as a senior in high school.

Like Hitler’s Daughter, Deadly Game was originally made for the USA network.  The first time I saw it was in the UK where, for some reason, it seemed to air frequently during the mid-1990s.  (Possibly this was because it starred quintessential Hollywood Brit Roddy McDowall.  That’s the only reason I can think of.)  It’s now on YouTube, for anyone who wants to sit through it.