Charles Bronson, law and order's Orkin Man, is back in "Death Wish 4: The Crackdown" and the bodies start piling up before the popcorn cools. This time around, there's barely any plot, just excuses for Bronson to blow people away.
Gail Morgan Hickman's script is right out of the "Jack and Jill went up the hill" school, where everything is spelled out and lines like "Who are you?" "Death!" pass for snappy dialogue.
Bronson returns as po'-faced architect Paul Kersey, whose female companions continue to have bad luck streaks, dying in either the first or the last 15 minutes of the film (this all started with the brutal murders of his wife and daughter in "Death Wish" and "DW2," in New York and Los Angeles, respectively).
This time around, still in L.A., Kersey's dating a reporter (Kay Lenz) whose daughter is about to overdose on crack street. Fade to black for that drug dealer and about three or four dozen others who get caught up in the vigilante vengeance.
Kersey is hired by a crusading publisher whose own daughter has overdosed to surreptitiously wipe out the city's two major drug dealers and their uncommonly inept gangs. He does this by methodically eliminating members from alternate sides until their own paranoia leads to a major blowout. Along the way, Bronson wipes out a cocaine lab, gunning down a dozen "chemists"; gives a new meaning to the term "wine cooler"; deals with corrupt cops and a dozen assassins; and never breaks a sweat.
Neither did anybody else, apparently, from the writers and actors to executive producers Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus, two gentlemen who make Aaron Spelling look like Franc ois Truffaut.
The original "Death Wish" was a relatively taut affair and spoke to its audience's frustrations with urban crime, but with each succeeding film, justice has been replaced by body counts.
Bronson, a chip off old Mount Rushmore, sleepwalks through the film as though someone's dangling a paycheck just out of camera range. It's gotten to the point where the vigilante isn't really motivated anymore, he's just set off, like a bomb.
Which this is.
Death Wish 4: The Crackdown, at area theaters, is rated R and contains numerous scenes of mindless violence.