With "Death Wish 4: The Crackdown" (citywide), the Charles Bronson vigilante series is verging on self-parody, something which director J. Lee Thompson, shrewd veteran that he is, clearly understands.
Writer Gail Morgan Hickman has created a raft of one-dimensional types within a plot of stunning simple-mindedness, and Thompson has turned it into an efficient, fast-moving, hard-action, good-looking comic-book fantasy, which was the only smart way to go. Of course, the film's violence is bone-crunching and blood-spurting, but thankfully it's dispatched in a swift, cartoon-like way. (You can all but see the film's dialogue in balloons.)
Thompson moves us way beyond the taking-the-law-into-your-own-hands controversy that surrounded the 1974 original "Death Wish." By now Bronson's Paul Kersey is an architect in the same way that Clark Kent is a reporter: His Vigilante has become as much an above-the-law mythological figure as Superman. Indeed, when Kersey, who now has his own large firm in Los Angeles, gets back into action when his girlfriend's teen-age daughter fatally ODs on crack, he doesn't even bother to use a new weapon or a new car. He is so invincible that it doesn't matter that the LAPD can easily identify him when he starts his one-man war against local drug traffickers.