|Image courtesy of www.RareCultCinema.com
Directed by: J. Lee Thompson
As I finally dip my toes into Charles Bronson films in my older age, I'm realizing that I've really been missing out on some fantastic revenge/action/thriller cinema. So I've decided to invest my time and immerse myself in a good chunk of his 80's output, primarily his contract films for Cannon Films, of which there are many.
I love the Death Wish films. Each one is distinctly different from the other, and as I dove into this latest entry, I wasn't a bit surprised that that little detail still rang true. Because I'm such an action lover, I had always thought that Part 3 would always be my favorite one, because let's be honest, it's fucking insane. But what struck me as rather surprising was how much I just loved this one, and truthfully, I wasn't expecting to. For some reason nobody ever talks about the Death Wish films after Part 3. So that was worrisome. I half-expected to come into a film that was a wreck, with a Direct-To-Video feel, and thankfully, that was not the case. And I should have known better. After all, this is yet another in a long string of collaborations between director J. Lee Thompson and Charles Bronson. In total, they would end up making 9 films together, though this one would be the the only Death Wish film they would make.
You know, I'm not even gonna bother with a synopsis this time because they're pretty much all the same at this point. Paul Kersey moves to a new city, only to have to take the law into his own hands once again because of gangs, or thugs, or whatever and they always eventually get to someone he loves. It's always the same story, only moved to a different city each time.
Death Wish IV has now taken the top spot as my favorite Death Wish film. It's 80's Trash through and through and it's glorious. Essentially it takes some of the "crazy" from Part 3, but decides to step it back a little, while in the process going a little cheese instead of taking the serious turn of parts 1 & 2. It's awesome, in the same kind of way Rocky IV and Rambo III are awesome, because they perfectly capture the extreme cheesy part of the 80's decade, and relish in it's absurdity. Whether that's intentional or not is up to debate.
I'm kind of taken aback at how this entry is not considered an important or essential part of the franchise. Just having seen it for the very first time, to me, this feels like what the series has been naturally building up to; to this point. The series has gone the serious route, then the over-the-top insane route, so now it's time to dive into the late 80's "Trash" route, and boy does this film deliver.
Director J. Lee Thompson delivers another solid 80's action/thriller yet again. It's hard to explain exactly, but there's something to the specific way he shoots films, edits them, and puts them together. There's a very particular "aesthetic", that's very 80's, very streamlined and professional, and very much his own. I just can't stress enough how fanstastic a director he was and how his work only benefited Bronson's films.
Bronson, to his credit, delivers yet another solid performance. It's effortless. He plays calm and cool like nobody else, almost to the point of being a robot. But when he puts on the charm, or has that little twinkle in his eye, he can make you forget he's about to kill you. By this time, Bronson is showing some serious age, yet it doesn't slow him down or prevent him from being a badass. Quite the contrary, age and experience has only made him more capable. It's hard to think of anyone else in this role. Sure there are plenty of guys who can pull off the tough older guy who takes the law into his own hands, but Bronson has an ability to really come across as Mr. Nice Guy when he wants, like flipping a switch, and it's that ability that gives Bronson the edge over most. Like, for example, the new Death Wish remake coming soon with Bruce Willis in the role. I love Willis. I grew up with him as being one of my favorite action heroes. However, he has really turned into a grumpy, uninteresting man in his older age. Even in interviews, he's so unlikable, usually speaking with a hint of arrogance, and a complete lack of interest in doing interviews. It's kind of sad, but mainly annoying, that an actor who was so likable and charming in the 80's and on into the 90's could turn into.....okay, I'm getting off track here. Sorry, moving on.
You would think by this point the whole vigilante premise, or just the Death Wish films in general, would be tired. I mean, it's pretty much the same film each time, just slightly altered and more reflective of that particular time it was made. But no, that couldn't be further from the truth. In fact, as each film is released, each with varying degrees of years between them, they only get better, and more entertaining. I have had a blast with these films, and though I went into this one with some apprehension, much like I will with the next installment, Part 5: The Face of Death, I'm glad to report that my fears were laid to rest and this entry was by far my favorite and most entertaining in the series. Here's to hoping the next installment goes out with a bang.