Film Review: Death Wish 4: The Crackdown (1987)

Also known as: Death Wish IV (working title)
Release Date: November 6th, 1987
Directed by: J. Lee Thompson
Written by: Gail Morgan Hickman
Based on: characters by Brian Garfield
Music by: John Bisharat, Paul McCallum, Valentine McCallum
Cast: Charles Bronson, Kay Lenz, John P. Ryan, Perry Lopez, Soon-Tek Oh, George Dickerson, Dana Barron, Danny Trejo, Tim Russ, Hector Mercado

The Cannon Group, 99 Minutes

Review:

“Who the fuck are you?” – Rapist, “Death!” – Paul Kersey

As I said in early Death Wish reviews, the film series starts to fall off after the third movie. However, this installment was actually better than what I remembered. Maybe that’s because I hadn’t seen this one in a really long time and because I am a Cannon Films junkie that just needs unapologetic, high octane, violent, ’80s action pumped into my veins on a regular basis.

That being said, Charles Bronson still brings his fucking A game in this one.

Now the plot is kind of a disjointed mess with a swerve as to who the real villain is and while I like that in the noir films of the ’40s and ’50s, it isn’t done in a very clever way. It’s also kind of predictable and you see it coming once the guy who is presented as the big bad is killed with about a half hour to spare.

But all that means is that you get a final showdown between Charles f’n Bronson and John P. Ryan, another man’s man and old school action film badass. In fact, Ryan has a fate that is very similar to the baddie of Death Wish 3.

Now out of the first four films, this one is the weakest. I definitely remember the fifth being the worst, despite boasting the talents of Michael Parks, as its villain. But this was still a satisfying movie that gives you just about everything you want in a Death Wish or Cannon Films motion picture. But nothing could have followed the last twenty minutes of the third film, which is the best balls out action sequence of the 1980s and maybe of all-time.

Death Wish 4: The Crackdown still shines though. Plus, not only does it feature Bronson and Ryan but it also gives us a young Danny Trejo, Tim Russ before he was Tuvok on Star Trek: Voyager, Soon-Tek Oh as a dirty cop and Hector Mercado as a drug dealing shithead.

Sure, the film could have been better with a more fluid narrative but do you really care that much about that stuff when watching a Chuck Bronson murder festival? I don’t. I just want to see the scum of the Earth meet violent ends. In Death Wish 4, like its predecessors, that’s exactly what you get.

Rating: 6.75/10
Pairs well with: the other Death Wish movies and the Dirty Harry film series.

Film Review: Missing In Action 2: The Beginning (1985)

Also known as: Battle Rage (Australia, New Zealand, UK), Braddock 2: O Início da Missão (Brazil)
Release Date: March 1st, 1985
Directed by: Lance Hool
Written by: Arthur Silver, Larry Levinson, Steve Bing
Music by: Brian May
Cast: Chuck Norris, Soon-Tek Oh, Steven Williams, Bennett Ohta, Cosie Costa, Joe Michael Terry, Professor Toru Tanaka

Golan-Globus Productions, The Cannon Group, 95 Minutes

Review:

“You really didn’t think I’d leave… without making sure you were dead?” – Colonel Braddock

Originally, this was supposed to be the first Missing In Action movie. And that makes more sense in regards to the title because in this film, Chuck Norris and his crew actually go “missing in action”.

The first two Missing In Action films were filmed back-to-back but to evade a lawsuit regarding the fact that Golan-Globus pretty much ripped off the premise from a treatment of the Rambo: First Blood Part II script, they flip-flopped the films’ releases and changed their titles so that they could get the original second film into theaters before that Rambo movie.

So even though this film was intended to come out first, it didn’t and then got labeled a prequel.

Anyway, I actually like the first movie a wee bit more but they are both pretty badass even if they are very different. Sure, they deal with very similar subject matter and are Hollywood critiques on US soldiers that were prisoners of war in Vietnam, after the war, but this movie doesn’t really give you any action until the third and final act.

The story here is slower but it is more personal and the dramatic elements of the film work in a way that is kind of surprising considering that no one in this film is known for giving great dramatic performances. And while the performances aren’t great, they are still convincing and drum up the right type of emotion as the plot rolls on.

The story starts with Braddock’s (Norris) small squad in Vietnam getting their helicopter shot down. They are then taken to a POW camp. The film jumps ahead an unknown amount of time but you can assume that it’s been at least a few years. Braddock and company have been imprisoned and forced to work in the camp, where it is run by a Vietnamese colonel that acts like a sadistic tyrant. He wants to force Braddock into confessing to war crimes and his method is to make Braddock’s soldiers suffer through various forms of mental and physical torture. The film actually spends an hour on this but none of it is dull and it only makes the action that much better once Norris gets a gun in his hand.

At its core, this is a revenge movie, but it’s a damn good one that has more narrative and context than similar films, including the other ones in this series. When Braddock succeeds and kills the evil scumbag, it is a pretty satisfying moment, after watching his madness unfold for 90 minutes.

Missing In Action 2 is a film that is better than it should be. It probably won’t appeal to those who aren’t already fans of intense ’80s action movies but it tells a good story, is well paced and ends just as it should. There’s no subversion of expectations, this is pure escapism and entertainment and what an action movie should be.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: The other Missing In Action movies, as well as the Delta Force film series and pretty much anything by Cannon Films.

Film Review: Good Guys Wear Black (1978)

Release Date: June 21st, 1978
Directed by: Ted Post
Written by: Joseph Fraley, Bruce Cohn, Mark Medoff
Music by: Craig Safan
Cast: Chuck Norris, Anne Archer, Soon-Tek Oh, Dana Andrews, James Franciscus, Lloyd Haynes, Jim Backus

American Cinema Releasing, 96 Minutes

Review:

Good Guys Wear Black is one of Chuck Norris’ early films, coming out in the heyday when he was rising to fame in the action movie genre. This was just his second starring vehicle but it helped propel him forward.

The first act of this film was actually my favorite, as it sees a bad ass military squad dressed in black and led by Chuck Norris, raiding the compound of some scumbags. Initially, I thought this was what the film was about and I was enjoying it.

Then the film switched gears. It turned into a conspiracy movie, where members of Norris’ crew were getting killed off and Norris was a target himself.

The film was gritty and embodied the true essence of a late 70s action movie. However, it was broken up by a lot of filler and would’ve benefited from a bit more balls-to-the-wall ass kickery.

The weakest part of the film was the climax, instead of Chuck Norris throwing fists, feet and cracking skulls, he killed the main antagonist in the dumbest and least Chuck Norris way possible – ramping a car into a river, causing the bad guy to drown or whatever.

This film isn’t a complete waste of time, and style-wise it is interesting. The problem with it, is for a film with the title Good Guys Wear Black and starring Chuck Norris, it is like a neutered watered down version of what one should expect from the guy who has been the king of bad ass Internet memes.

Rating: 5/10