DirectorJ. Lee Thompson/Allan A. Goldstein
Release Date(s)1987/1994 (May 2, 2018)
Studio(s)Cannon Films/21st Century Film Corporation/Trimark Pictures (Umbrella Entertainment)
- Film/Program Grade: See Below
- Video Grade: See Below
- Audio Grade: See Below
- Extras Grade: C
- Overall Grade: B
The Death Wish series had begun its downhill turn after the release of the third film, and by that time, the series had become a bit of a joke to the moviegoing public. However, being one of the crown jewels in the Cannon Films library, there was no stopping them from making more. And in 1987, they did just that with Death Wish 4: The Crackdown. Struggling to make its money back at the box office, they abandoned the series and the company went bankrupt in the early 1990s. By then, Menahem Golan went off on his own and set up the 21st Century Film Corporation, and one of its few projects was the ill-fated Death Wish V: The Face of Death. It was the last of the series until the remake of the original many years later, but it was also a disappointing vehicle for its star, Charles Bronson, who appeared in very few projects thereafter.
Death Wish 4 picks up with Paul Kersey, yet again, trying to settle down, but he soon picks up his old habits when his girlfriend’s daughter overdoses on cocaine. Aided by a wealthy man who also wishes to get back at the dealers who killed his daughter with drugs as well, he supplies him with all of the information and weaponry he needs in order to plot two rival gangs against each other, with a pair of eager detectives hot on his trail. In Death Wish V, Kersey starts over yet again, this time with a fashion designer and her young daughter. Butting up against them is an ex-husband – an insane, controlling, and abusive mob boss who will do anything to make them unhappy. It isn’t long before Kersey is yet again brandishing a pistol, going after him and his thugs.
Due to the unnecessary and over-the-top violence of the previous films, mostly towards women, Death Wish 4 was obviously toned down to a significant degree. It features only one attempted rape, but it doesn’t go nearly as far as anything we’ve seen previously, an aspect of which has always been a problem for me when it comes to the first two films. However, squibs and frequent exchanges of gunfire are in full effect, as well as a spectacular conclusion featuring the use of a rocket launcher. It’s also nice that Kersey is going after drug dealers for a change and not street gangs.
Not everything about the film is solid though. It starts off on the wrong foot a little as we’re led to believe during the opening moments that Kersey is haunted by his past as he wakes up from a nightmare. It’s the only time in the film that this notion is ever eluded to, and it’s quickly abandoned thereafter. It’s certainly something that could have been explored further and given one of the sequels a little more depth. There’s also the possibility of a cop gone rogue to get revenge against Kersey, which is also an interesting idea, but it too goes nowhere. The rest of the film is the fairly standard, gun-toting vigilantism that the series is known for.
Death Wish V, on the other hand, has a few more teeth to it. Kersey does more than just kill his victims this time around. Now he’s into torturing them. The film is also a bit of a tonal mess at times, trying to work in things like humor in places where it doesn’t belong. The positives are the same though, specifically the lack of rape (although a woman is brutally harmed at one point, just not sexually). It’s actually a little closer in tone to the original film. Charles Bronson looks a little out of place at times, but he does manage to get in a few good speeches, whereas in previous films, he’s mostly been a silent character. It’s an odd film, memorable though it may be, and a weird way to end the series, which seemed to at least be trying to come up with somewhat fresh approaches.
The transfers for both films on Umbrella Entertainment’s Cannon Classics Double Feature Blu-ray release appear to be the same ones found on other releases from around the world, including the U.S. release of Death Wish 4 from MGM. Even though they’re older transfers, they’re not bad at all. They’re quite clean and stable with well-resolved grain. Detail is good, although it does appear a tad too sharp at times. Colors, particularly skin tones, are a little drab, looking more warm than cool. Blacks aren’t all that deep as they’re lightened up by the grain, but overall brightness and contrast levels are fine. Death Wish 5 is similar, but is a tad softer by comparison.
The audio for Death Wish 4 is presented in English mono DTS-HD, while the audio for Death Wish V is presented in English 2.0 DTS-HD. Subtitles are also included with both presentations in English SDH. The mono track is surprisingly strong. Boasting some good separation, with particular regard to ambient activity, sound effects carry more weight than I would have expected from a single-channel source. Dialogue is mostly clear and precise, although there were a couple of moments where I struggled to hear what people were saying as they felt a bit low and slightly clipped in spots, but those moments were few. The stereo track definitely has a fullness to it, widening out the film’s score in the far left and far right registers. There’s also some good presence when it comes to the sound effects as well. The dialogue is fine, but I did notice a couple of dropouts, and at one point, the sound wobbling for a second when somebody spoke. Minor flaws, of course, but worth mentioning.
DEATH WISH 4: THE CRACKDOWN (FILM/VIDEO/AUDIO): C+/B+/B
DEATH WISH V: THE FACE OF DEATH (FILM/VIDEO/AUDIO): C+/B+/B
The extras are brief but there are audio commentaries on both films by Charles Bronson biographer and author Paul Talbot; theatrical trailers for both films; a TV spot and a broadcast promo for Death Wish 4; VHS previews for both films; and an image gallery with 61 promotional images.
Overall, this a nice, consolidated package from Umbrella Entertainment, bringing together both films with nice transfers and decent extras. It’s one that Death Wish fans are definitely going to be interested in. It isn’t chock full of bells and whistles, but there’s enough here to enjoy, even for casual fans.
- Tim Salmons