Another entry in the oft-maligned franchise, this one getting Paul Kersey to do his trademark “street cleaning,” (that is, mercilessly gunning down criminals, of course) on behalf of a wealthy entrepreneur looking to wipe out the drug element in L.A.. The flick initially starts out in the traditional Death Wish formula; Kersey’s loved ones are attacked, and he begins hunting down the culprits one by one and giving them, well, their death wish. However, within 20 minutes, Kersey’s had his revenge, but one propositioned by the businessman, his target expands to, apparently, include the entire L.A. drug trade. The rest of the film has Kersey wiping out gang members en masse, sometimes under the guise of stealth, sometimes outright and guns blazing, until (surprise, surprise) the businessman turns out to be corrupt and terns on Kersey. Then he must convince the cop on his tail that his intentions are pure (again, as in the original) before the final explosive showdown (which ends tragically, although you’d never know it from Kersey’s face).
It is not a stretch to say that, by this point, Charles Bronson had all but given up on serious acting (although he did have at least one great performance in him, as evidenced by The Indian Runner), with bare-bones revenge projects like Kinjinte, 10 To Midnight, and Murphy’s Law dominating his filmography. However, here, he doesn’t even look as bored as he looks just, plain, upset. I don’t think he ever saw Kersey’s adventures reaching a second entry, let alone a 4th and 5th, and his sordid, lifeless presence here would be evidence of that. Whereas in part 3, he is hilariously withdrawn, cold, and deadpan, here, it seems he’s resigned himself to the ugliness and brutality of the franchise, and just let the action set pieces do the heavy lifting for him. Which, thankfully, they do. While not reaching the absurd, campy heights of the previous two entries (Death Wish 3 is a damn 80s action camp classic), this is still a Cannon production, meaning producers Menahem Golum and Yoram Globus were focused on producing a cheap, derivative, but energetic and fun exploitation flick, which they, once again, succeeded in doing. The film has entertaining death scenes, early appearances by Vacation’s Dana Barron (as a drug addict!) and Danny Trejo, and Charles Bronson scaling buildings and throwing punches while well into his 60s. However, the camp-action tone is too subdued for the film to be a laugh-riot, and the sincerity of the original entry has been so diluted and xeroxed that all that remains are gun blasts, scuzzy drug dealers, and the occasional Paul Kersey one-liner…which can still be kinda fun.
Recommended for fans of the Death Wish series (even though this is the weakest I’ve seen, it satisfies the base interest of its audience, and the plot strays enough from the formula to prove mildly interesting) or of the sleazier, more violent Cannon productions of the mid-to-late ’80s. Fans of Charles Bronson’s better, more nuanced and iconic work (see his supporting work in Once Upon A Time In The West, The Great Escape, or The Dirty Dozen, or his leading roles in Mr. Majestyk, or The Mechanic) will not be satisfied by his grim, depressed sleepwalking he obliges here, but those who enjoy his later, trashier revenge pictures should find a moderately funny and exciting viewing here.