Death Wish IV: The Crackdown (1987)
The Death Wish franchise trundles on with this new chapter that sees J. Lee Thompson take over directing duties from Michael Winner. Paul Kersey is back and has settled into a relationship with another disposable girlfriend who may as well be called ‘Token Female Character’. This plot progression in a skirt has a daughter who quickly dies of a drugs overdose, which of course lights a fire in Kersey’s belly for some instant justice.
With Death Wish 3 being such a euphoric high, Death Wish IV: The Crackdown sees its audience coming down hard and fast. This is a decidedly dull entry in the franchise that echoes Death Wish II with its lack of originality. Bronson has clearly given up the ghost, speaking his lines with one eye off camera checking to see if the ink has dried on his cheque yet.
By the far the only real interesting thing that happens in this after-school special of a movie is an opening dream sequence which sees Kersey gun down a perp that looks exactly like him. Waking in a cold sweat Death Wish IV suggests Kersey will do a little bit of soul searching and ask whether he’s become just as bad as the people he kills. Then, one overdose later, the prospect is thrown over a rainbow never to be seen again.
Death Wish V: The Face of Death (1994)
Well, it’s been seven years since the last Death Wish, so it’s time to warm up Charles Bronson in the microwave and stick him front of a camera. Cannon Films, the producers of the last two films, is dead but here comes 21st Century Film to save the day. It should be noted that 21st Century Film is owned by one half of Cannon. Yay! I think.
Paul Kersey is now under witness protection and in a relationship (yeah, I know) with Olivia, an ex-gangsters moll. Said gangster, Tommy O’Shea (Michael Parks) is up to shady business and when Olivia becomes a witness to his crimes, he sets about getting her killed.
If you’ve got this far in the series, you know where this is all going. However, despite the crushing inevitability of it all, Death Wish V reminds you that the franchise is actually somewhat watchable when it’s bathing in its own bloody-mindedness. Like Death Wish 3, Kersey has become a cartoon again; taking out baddies like a revenge thirsty Bugs Bunny. It’s all rather comedic and, as such, you can see a little sparkle in Bronson’s eye in the action. Yes, he looks way to old to be doing this, but he at lest looks like he’s having fun on set again.
Worth watching just to see Kersey blow someone up with a football.
Death Wish (2018)
Released only a few short weeks after the Parkland High shooting, anticipation for this remake of Death Wish with Eli Roth (Hostel) at the helm was running low. That said, when gun crime is so prevalent in American news, there’s perhaps no right time to release a piece of media that appears to champion gun violence. See, for example, Netflix’s Punisher.
Eli Roth’s films have never been particular favourites of mine. The Green Inferno is the only one that’s ever grabbed my attention thus far. Death Wish roughly follows the same plot as the original with Paul Kersey (Bruce Willis), now a doctor instead of an architect, seeking revenge for the assault on his daughter and murder of his wife. Actually, it’s about an hour of Bruce Willis looking terminally bored whilst he debates whether to get revenge before the final act sees his stunt man take over and skulls start getting crushed.
Willis has put more effort in the VOD films he’s been in of late than he does this film. When he laments over the assault of his daughter, you could almost be forgiven for thinking Roth edited in a rehearsal take by accident. The only person who comes out with any dignity is Vincent D’Onofrio as Kersey’s brother, and he is given very little to do. For a filmmaker who once showed us a man having sex with a roast turkey, it’s staggering how little imagination or energy has been pumped into this remake. Roth doesn’t even appear to be running on autopilot like he did in Knock Knock. This is just a tired film that tries to play both sides of the gun control debate whilst secretly championing lashings of spent bullets. So, I guess, in that sense, it shares a lot with the Michael Winner original.