The Direct to Video Connoisseur

I'm a huge fan of action, horror, sci-fi, and comedy, especially of the Direct to Video variety. In this blog I review some of my favorites and not so favorites, and encourage people to comment and add to the discussion. If you click on an image, it will take you to that post's image page, which includes many more pics from the film and other goodies I couldn't fit in the actual review. For announcements and updates, don't forget to Follow us on Twitter and Like our Facebook page. If you're the director, producer, distributor, etc. of a low-budget feature length film and you'd like to send me a copy to review, you can contact me at dtvconnoisseur[at]yahoo.com. I'd love to check out what you got.

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--Matt

Friday, November 4, 2011

Death Wish 4: The Crackdown (1987)

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It has finally happened, I am now getting around to the last of the VHSs Mr. Kenner at Movies in the Attic sent me over a year ago. I know, it has taken forever, but it's what happens when I get submissions, especially multiple movie submissions, some are looked at right away, and some are lost in the shuffle. But we're here, it's better late than never, and I appreciate him sending me these, because they've all been a lot of fun. Also, for Kenner's take on all the Death Wish films, click here.

Death Wish 4 seems like a more natural sequel to part two, as if three didn't happen or was a different time line-- like the Highlander movies and the TV series. Anyway, life looks good, Bronson has a hot younger girlfriend, the architecture biz is going nicely, and he hasn't had to use his guns in awhile. Things change though when his girlfriend's teen daughter is killed by a coke overdose, and with the possibility of a mother/daughter threesome out the window, Bronson wants revenge, so he kills the dealer that sold her the junk. That's when a mysterious millionaire comes to him with a proposition: unlimited resources to take out the two main drug operations in LA. Bronson jumps at it, and starts an epic gang war that has the city's law enforcement scrambling to find that damn Vigilante again.

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I really dug this one. It was a Yojimbo paradigm, with Charles Bronson in full bass mode. How can you not love him with unlimited havoc-wreaking resources? This, along with part three, are the full realization of the Cannon/Golan-Globus Death Wish combination, just a lot of kicking ass and taking names. It may be a little over the top (Stallone style), it may be a little cartoonish, but if that's an issue for you, then what are you doing watching Cannon's Death Wish 4?

Bronson was getting up there in years as this one was made, and though watching him mix it up with David Wolos-Fonteno was a bit of a stretch, overall Bronson really worked as the lone, aging Ronin for hire. It's actually a common theme in Japanese samurai pictures, the aging samurai whose skill and wisdom that comes with age is an asset over the lost step and athleticism from his youth. For Golan-Globus, of course, it's not just wisdom and skill, but stunt doubles that overcome the lost youth too. Either way, at 65-66, Bronson still had the screen presence to carry this thing off and carry it off to the point that I was thoroughly entertained.

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I want to go back to that scene with David Wolos-Fonteno for a second, because it was pretty fantastic on a lot of levels. It starts with Fonteno getting ready to go to the opera with his girlfriend, and he's constantly berating her. Normally I don't go in for that kind of thing, but his cracks were so funny, and I don't know this for a fact, but I think they were ad libbed. He was telling her she needed to lose weight to fit into her dress, that the dress made her look like a damned rooster, and she was giving it right back to him, which was even better. Then he goes back upstairs and finds Bronson there, and he's beating the crap out of him, before Bronson knocks his head into a TV set, then matadors him out the window. Whenever I see Wolos-Fonteno on Law and Order as a judge, I think of him here, telling his girlfriend she looks like a rooster, and hunting Bronson in his apartment.

As far as Star Trek goes, the one I followed the most was The Next Generation, but that doesn't mean I didn't know Voyager existed, didn't recognize the guy who played Tuvok appearing in Death Wish 4 as a drug dealer. We also had Kay Lenz as Bronson's girlfriend, and Dana Barron as her daughter-- you may remember Barron as the girl who David Silver cheated on Donna with on 90210. DTVC favorite Danny Trejo makes an appearance as a hatchetman for one of the gangsters, rocking some great hair, before he's blown up. Then we have the great Soon-Tek Oh as the detective following Kearsey. Finally, my favorite was the late John P. Ryan as the mysterious rich man. He was great as the mob boss in Bound.

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I want to take a second here to bring to your attention the cover photo. Usually with cover photos I hotlink them from illegal download sites, mostly because what they're doing is bad (at least in the case of films still in print), so they won't be upset if I grab their cover photo and not give them credit-- though I'm sure they've hotlinked them from other places too. But tonight, for the first time in DTVC history, I've actually scanned the VHS cover myself. That's right, that's the exact one Kenner sent me. A DTVC first, but hopefully not the last-- and feel free to hotlink it, it'll make me proud.

In the context of the Death Wish series, this is more like the part 3, and part 3 is more like an interlude or one of those franchise Star Wars novels that take place outside of the major storylines. Regardless, if we're going to separate out the first one from the sequels and judge the sequels on their own, I put this right up behind three and right ahead of two (and you'll have to wait for part five). Thanks again to Kenner for sending us the VHS.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0092857/

13 comments:

  1. This one may be my least favorite of the series. But that's kinda like saying it's my least favorite child. I love them all, no matter what. John P. Ryan... gotta love that guy. I don't want to spoil anything, but he's great in this film. Any time Ryan appeared in a Cannon movie, it was pure gold.

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  2. This is a guilty pleasure. It is badly made though on a technical level, but how can you not love it when you see guys trying to smuggle drugs in fish and a gunfight in which fish get sprayed with bullets. I like 1,3 and 5 before this but I'd be lying if I don't watch it to the end everytime it's on TV.

    (spoilers)

    Another reason I can't give it a 3 star (once again I find the film entertaining) is the ending, which is so ridiculous and out of place for such a movie. Plus the part was so obviously a hostage character, as Kay Lenz just disappeared after 20 minutes and then returns at the tied up and at gun point. It also ends on a complete hilarious note by Ryan saying "I WARNED YOU!" As much as I love it, you cannot deny the terribleness of the filmmaking. It's better than 2 of course, and this isn't incompetently made, so much as it is supercheap. The explosions, choreography of shootouts and even the way the film is of lower quality than 2,3 and 5. Although 2 is bad because it's terribly edited (Look at the scene where the daughter is set up as comatose and the way it flashes to music.) In anycase I give 4 higher marks cause it's entertaining.

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  3. always liked this one, right from the opening scene in the underground garage (a WTF moment for a Bronson film) right through to John P Ryan's comeuppance.

    must. do. Death Wish V The Face of Death. next.

    be very interested to hear what you think of that film directed by Allan Goldstein (who? exactly!...

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  4. I like that analogy Video Vacuum, that might be the best one I've seen for these movies, because it allows you to be critical without totally losing sight of how awesome they all are.

    And I'm glad you guys dig the John P. Ryan too. It's too bad he's no longer with us.

    You're right Kenner, I should've hit the ending, because, even without spoilers, it was lackluster and a little all over the place. Using your rating system, I'd have given this a 3 and 1/2, and that's mostly based on the ending.

    And Blofield, already ahead of you. Like us on Facebook to find out what movies we'll be doing next and when. Death Wish 5, if everything goes well, will be up on Friday, again, thanks to Kenner for providing us with the VHS.

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  5. Good review! Thought this was a pretty fun sequel also. We have just Part 5 coming soon.

    Looking forward to your take on it!

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  6. Nice, and you too. I can't wait to get over and check out your Dolph reviews!

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  7. I love the tag line for this: "This time it's war."

    What because parts 1 - 3 were just minor disagreements resolved in an amicable way?

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  8. ha! i do the same thing with cover photos. somehow stealing from thieves doesn't make me feel bad at all.

    and of course, it's not like i make any money off any images on my blog.

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  9. I just realized I hadn't gotten around to these comments yet, I'm really sorry about that guys.

    I know, I wonder if the people who wrote that had seen part 3. That might have been more of a war than part 4 was.

    Yeah, the cover shot is still the biggest issue, because imdb doesn't allow hotlinking, and when I Print Screen, the image is often too small-- and with some of the more obscure flicks, they don't even have an image. When I first started out, I had no software to get images from anything, and I would often hotlink from anywhere for all my pics, which, when looking back, wasn't really a good thing. I should probably go back and replace all of those images, now that I can capture my own-- you'll notice that some of the early ones don't even have images too. It's funny how the site has grown since then.

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  10. I kind of liked this one. It was definitely a step down from the absolutely ridiculous (but enjoyable) part 3 though.

    The plot twist was utterly ridiculous and the killing of his girlfriend at the end mean spirited. Everyone knows the girlfriend dies at the start of a Death Wish film, not the end.

    I do love it when Star Trek actors turn up in other movies playing evil or at least reprehensible character. Tuvok as a drug dealer is a pretty good one.

    I need to get around to watching part 5 soon.

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  11. Yeah, the girlfriend thing at the end was mean spirited, and seemed kind of lazy too. It was as if they were afraid of him not being able to walk off into the sunset by himself, so they just wacked her as an after thought.

    I never watched Voyager, but I remember him in all the commercials, and seeing him here was a trip. I wonder what it's like to read for a Vulcan part.

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  12. i'm like you, only seen tng but my girlfriend watched voyager so i get all my info from her.

    tuvok is actually in an episode of tng, the picard as john mcclane one. it's actually better than some of the die hard-ish movies i watched. picard even mentioned the blue barber guy.

    http://saturdaynightscreening.wordpress.com/2011/07/27/star-trek-the-next-generation-disasterpower-playstarship-mine-die-hard-ish-10/

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  13. Yeah, I remember Tuvok in the TNG episode. I'll have to check out your review of it. My buddy had that multiple DVD set of all the Borg episodes across all series, and the Voyager ones were the first Voyager episodes I'd ever seen. I think by the time Voyager came around, I was Star Trekked out, so I didn't watch it.

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