Tag Archives: Charles Bronson

Mr. Majestyk (1974)

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 6 out of 10

4-Word Review: Don’t touch his watermelons!

Vince Majestyk (Charles Bronson) is a Colorado watermelon farmer who gets into a conflict with Bobby (Paul Koslo) who wants to force Vince to use unskilled drunks to harvest his crop instead of migrant workers. When Vince successfully forces Bobby and his crew off of his property Bobby then goes to the police with assault charges, which lands Vince in jail. It is there that he comes into contact with Frank Renda (Al Lettieri) a notorious hit man. While the two are being transferred by bus to another prison Renda’s men attack it in a shootout, but when the driver is killed Vince takes control of the bus and drives it off into the Colorado wilderness. There he holds Renda hostage while trying to broker a deal with the police where he’ll ‘trade’ Renda for his freedom, but things don’t go quite as planned.

Many people don’t realize that during the ‘70s Bronson did quite a few offbeat films with St. Ives and From Noon Till Three being his two biggest, but this one comes in as an honorable mention. I’ve watched a lot of movies in my lifetime and can usually guess where they’re going, but this one kept me genuinely intrigued most of the way. The script is enlivened with its vivid on-location shooting done mostly in La Junta, Colorado, which includes a well-staged shootout done in the center of town as well as a car chase that takes advantage of an area with scenic rock formations.

The biggest surprise though is Bronson. Sometimes he comes off as stiff and wooden, but here he’s engaging and even reveals a playful side. His character also makes a few miscalculations, which helps him seem more human as opposed to the standard rugged good guy who is always able to think-on-his-feet and constantly able to achieve miraculous split-second decisions.

I was disappointed though with Al Lettieri. He was so effectively nasty in The Getaway that I didn’t think it could be topped or even attempted and yet just two years after that one he again gets cast in virtually the same type of role making it seem like typecasting to the extreme. I was hoping that he would expose a softer side to his persona at some unexpected moment, but it never occurs and he just proceeds to being one mean, angry s.o.b. which quickly becomes boring and one-dimensional.

Lee Purcell though is terrific as his girlfriend. She had played only rural, country girl types before this, so it was great seeing her portray someone more sophisticated and despite her young age, only 26 at the time, she shows great composure alongside her much older male co-stars. Her cool, collected manner makes for an intriguing contrast to Lettieri’s hyper one and should’ve been explored more.

Linda Cristal as Bronson’s love interest is less impressive. Playing a feisty Hispanic woman comes off almost like a cliché and their relationship is forced. She does come in handy as the getaway driver, which I feel is the only reason her character was put into the story to begin with.

Despite the unpredictable touches the beginning is quite contrived, which includes an opening title sequence better suited for a TV-show. The script was written by Elmore Leonard, which made it disappointing as I was expecting there to be some sort of subtext to it, but in the end it’s rather run-of-the-mill with the offbeat elements not enough to make it anything more than a transparent diversion.

My Rating: 6 out of 10

Released: July 12, 1974

Runtime: 1Hour 43Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Richard Fleischer

Studio: United Artists

Available: DVD, Blu-ray, Amazon Video

Death Wish 4: The Crackdown (1987)

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 1 out of 10

4-Word Review: Vigilante battles drug dealers.

Paul Kersey (Charles Bronson) is now living in L.A. and in a relationship with Karen (Kay Lenz) who has a teen daughter Erica (Dana Barron). Erica wants to become an architect like Paul and interns at his office, but she is also dating a boyfriend (Jesse Dabson) who is into drugs. His friendship with a drug dealer gets Erica to experiment with crack cocaine, which ends up killing her. In a rage Paul returns to his vigilante ways by killing the dealer, which then gets the attention of billionaire Nathan White (John P. Ryan) whose own daughter also died from a drug overdose. He recruits Paul into tracking down the biggest dealers in L.A. and killing them, but Paul eventually realizes that Nathan has ulterior motives.

This was the first film in the series not to be directed by Michael Winner and instead the duties were handed over to J. Lee Thompson who had worked with Bronson on several other projects previously. The script by Gail Morgan Hickman tries to take the vigilante theme in a new direction and starts out with a diverting dream sequence in which Paul sees himself as one of the victims that he shoots, which brought up a potentially intriguing subplot involving the psychological pressures one must assuredly develop when they’re constantly killing people even if it’s for ‘justice’, but the film then never goes back to it, which was disappointing.

The overall scenario, which transports Paul from dealing with ordinary street gangs to sophisticated crime families, does not work and fails to give the already tired series a new breath of life. It no longer even resembles a vigilant theme at all, but instead becomes more like an episode of ‘Miami Vice’ but without the trendy attire.

Paul is no longer just an ordinary guy with a gun either, but instead has become a sort-of James Bond incarnate who uses with all sorts of elaborate weaponry and gadgets better made for a seasoned CIA agent. He’s also able to get himself out of just about any nerve-wracking jam like when he miraculously fights off over 20 men in warehouse who are shooting at him, or magically getting himself out of a car that he is driving just seconds before it’s riddled with bullets.

Bronson looks more like he’s 45 instead of 67 and matching him up with a young girlfriend makes him appear more virile, but you know right from the start that it’s only a matter of time before she ends up dying violently. It starts to seem like Paul Kersey is a walking, talking curse as anyone who befriends him turns up dead or like the cinematic version of Jessica Fletcher.

I kept wondering when it would all start catching up with him. How can he continue to work a regular job while still spending so much time tracking down the bad guys? When does he sleep? And exactly how many people does he have to kill before the police eventually nab him, or quit allowing him to walk away from it without consequence?

Unlike the first three films this one fails to elicit any type of message or statement. It seems simply intent at being a profit making venture to cash in on those who like mindless shootouts and car explosions and nothing more.

My Rating: 1 out of 10

Released: November 6, 1987

Runtime: 1Hour 39Minutes

Rated R

Director: J. Lee Thompson

Studio: Cannon Film Distributors

Available: DVD, Blu-ray, Amazon Video, YouTube

Death Wish 3 (1985)

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 2 out of 10

4-Word Review: Vigilante defends senior citizens.

Paul Kersey’s (Charles Bronson) vigilante act returns this time he goes back to New York City and defends the senior citizens in a neighborhood of his war buddy Charley (Francis Drake) who was killed by members of a street gang lead by Manny Fraker (Gavan O’ Herlihy).

The third entry in the series goes completely off-the-rails with a neighborhood setting resembling an apocalyptic world better suited for a surreal dystopian sci-fi film. The gang members behave like vile creatures straight out of somebody’s worst nightmare and look like leftover cast members from a cheesy version of The Warriors while the senior citizens seem ready to be ordained into sainthood.

After the first movie was released and met with criticism Bronson argued in interviews that his films did not promote violence and yet here that’s all you see. Not only does it brazenly promote vigilantism as being an effective deterrent to crime, but advocates that it’s the only option.

It also portrays the police in a horrible light. Yes, there are bad cops and films have every right to expose that, but there are some good ones too and this film never bothers to show that. All the viewer gets to see are brutal monsters dressed in uniform openly ignoring a suspect’s due process, or just being cowardly and inept when dealing with the real criminals. It got so bad that I was surprised that the police force nationwide didn’t boycott this flick in protest.

The only one looking like he’s having a good time is Bronson who actually appears relaxed and able to convey other emotions besides just anger. This is also the first film in the series where there is an actual clear reason for why the thugs hound him. For instance he drapes an expensive Nikon camera around his shoulder to entice the gang members to mug him and when they do he shoots them, which is the precise type of thing that should’ve been in the first two movies.

He also gets two unintentionally funny moments. One is where he is having a nice peaceful dinner with an older couple, but then excuses himself to shoot two men who are robbing his car before returning to his dinner like it was no big deal. Another scene has him getting out of his car to go grab something from a grocery store while leaving the attractive Kathryn (Deborah Raffin), who he has just started seeing, in the vehicle. While he is away the thugs break the passenger side window and knock Kathryn out before putting the car in neutral and letting it roll down the street and ultimately crashing into another car. Bronson runs down to initially save her, but once he sees the blaze he nonchalantly turns around and walks away almost like saying ‘Fuck, looks like that hot babe I wanted to date has just been burnt to a crisp. Guess now I’ll just have to find somebody else’.

The final 30 minutes is one of the most violent that I have ever seen in a film. It’s literally just one graphic image after another put to a rapid fire pace. Director Michael Winner seems compelled to throw in as many repugnant images of death, blood and rape that he can making it almost laughable in its audaciousness if it weren’t so nauseating instead.

My Rating: 2 out of 10

Released: November 1, 1985

Runtime: 1Hour 32Minutes

Rated R

Director: Michael Winner

Studio: Cannon Film Distributors

Available: DVD, Blu-ray, Amazon Video, YouTube

Death Wish II (1982)

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 4 out of 10

4-Word Review: Architect becomes vigilante again.

Paul Kersey (Charles Bronson) has recovered from his traumatic loss of his family from 8 years earlier and is now living in L.A. where he continues his work as a successful architect. One day while taking his new girlfriend Geri (Jill Ireland) and cationic daughter Carol (Robin Sherwood) to a fairground he gets robbed of his wallet by a gang of 5 thugs (Thomas F. Duffy, E. Lamont Johnson, Kevin Major Howard, Laurence Fishburne, Stuart K. Robinson). They use the address on Paul’s driver license to find his home and invade it while he is away. There they rape and kill his maid (Silvana Gallardo) and then when Paul returns they knock him out while kidnapping his daughter who they take back to their ‘hideout’. While there they attempt to gang rape her and in her effort to escape she’s impaled on a fence and dies. This sets in motion for Paul to return as a vigilante this time prowling the underground neighborhoods of L.A. where he’s motivated to shoot each of the 5 gang members who participated in the crime.

The film is less like a sequel and more just a slight variation from the original. Having to go through yet another home invasion/rape sequence, which is almost shot-for-shot the exact same as in the first installment (if even more exploitive) is mechanical to the extreme and an insult to the viewer. It’s like a TV-station promising their audience a new episode of their favorite series only to end up showing them a rerun instead. The story should’ve evolved more perhaps having Paul now becoming a ‘professional vigilante’ and being hired by people to track down the killers of their loved ones or at least something that would’ve taken the theme in a slightly different angle.

There continues to be the issue, like in the first film, of why does Chuck constantly get marked by these hoodlums for harassment anyways. For instance at the fairground there’s many other people milling  around and yet for some reason it’s Bronson, this very nondescript middle-aged man, that becomes their target.

The recasting of the daughter role is another problem. In the first film she was played by Kathleen Tolan and portrayed as being an adult married woman. Here though the character has regressed back to being a teenager and looking to be no older than 18 if even that.

To some degree on a sleazy B-level it actually hits-the-spot the soundtrack is done by former Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page and it is perfect especially the strained, loud electric guitar chords that effectively reflect the film’s dark, grimy mood. Most of the locales were filmed in actual buildings that were abandoned and in crime-ridden areas forcing the cast to require 20 off-duty police guards for protection. There’s even a scene featuring large squealing rats roaming around at the character’s feet as they say their lines.

The fact that Paul hunts down the actual perpetrators of the crime is on an emotional level satisfying, but it also becomes a logistical problem as it’s just not believable that he’d be able to find them all at random times, one-by-one simply by going to the city’s ‘bad areas’. I was also flabbergasted that in a later scene when Paul returns home from shopping and after dealing with his home being invaded now twice by crooks he doesn’t bother to lock the door once he gets inside, which you would think would be the first thing done each and every time!

The one interesting aspect that could’ve helped the film stand-out was the reintroducing of Vincent Gardenia who played the NYC police chief Frank Ochoa who tracked down Kersey in the first film and does the same here, but not to  arrest him, but instead to kill him. This could’ve created more tension had it been played out effectively as Kersey would constantly have to watch his back for an attack while simultaneously attacking the thugs when he came upon them. Unfortunately this side-story dies before it gets going when Ochoa gets kill just as he decides to help Kersey, which in itself could’ve been an intriguing odd couple-like pairing.

The ending  jumps-the-shark by having Kersey disguise himself as a doctor so that he can infiltrate a mental hospital in order to kill the last of the thugs who now resides there. This segment though becomes more like a scene from one those cheap horror movies with an asylum setting and not like an action flick at all.

The credibility gets seriously strained too by having Kersey constantly coming into contact with regular citizens who always conveniently side with him when it is most needed and thus helping him escape the clutches of the authorities. Sure this might happen every once in a while, but eventually he would confront someone who sees things differently, which all helps to make this film too dumb to take seriously, but slick enough to appease those looking for nothing more than simple-minded action.

My Rating: 4 out of 10

Released: February 19, 1982

Runtime: 1Hour 28Minutes

Rated R

Director: Michael Winner

Studio: Filmways

Available: DVD, Blu-ray, Amazon Video, YouTube

Death Wish (1974)

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 7 out of 10

4-Word Review: Architect becomes a vigilante.

In connection with the Eli Roth/Bruce Willis reboot that is set to be released to theaters this Friday I thought now would be a good time to go back and take a look at the original. The story centers on Paul Kersey (Charles Bronson) who works as an architect and lives a comfortable life with his wife Joanna (Hope Lange) and adult daughter Carol (Kathleen Tolan). One day while he is at work his New York apartment gets invaded by three thugs (Jeff Goldblum, Christopher Logan, Gregory Rozakis) who kill his wife and rape his daughter. Paul becomes outraged that the police can’t seem to make any headway on the case and decides to take matters into his own hands by becoming a self-styled vigilante shooting random thugs on the street late at night, which in turn has him becoming a cult hero to the many residents of the crime ridden city.

The film is based on the novel of the same name by Brian Garfield. Garfield was inspired to write the story after his car got vandalized. He initially fantasized about tracking down the criminals and killing them before eventually speculating what would happen if someone actually went through with these feelings and decided to take the law into their own hands. The main difference between the novel and film is that in the book the vigilantism becomes more of the problem while in the movie it’s considered the solution.

Many critics at the time gave the film unfavorable reviews as they felt it advocated violence, but I found the movie to have a certain uplifting quality. While the message is certainly simplistic and one-sided it still nicely conveys the idea that ordinary citizens can make a difference and it is up to us, the American public, to foster change and not to simply leave it up to someone else. The film doesn’t completely promote violence as the solution either as there is one scene where an old lady (Helen Martin) scares off her attacker simply by using her hat pin.

The problem that I had with it was why does Bronson constantly get harassed by these thugs in the first place? Whether he is at a restaurant or on the subway the bad guys constantly hone in on him for no apparent reason even when there’s plenty of other people around. In the book it made more sense because the title character would intentionally set traps for the thugs like abandoning his car and putting an ‘out of gas’ sign on it, so the criminals would try to rob the vehicle and then when they did he’d shoot them. Of course this would make the character’s motives more questionable, which the film wanted to avoid, but in the process it becomes less believable.

While this has become Bronson’s signature role it still would’ve worked better had a less brawny actor played the part. In the book the character is a meek accountant and someone like Jack Lemmon, who was originally considered for the role, would’ve been a more authentic fit. Bronson’s image is so entrenched as a ‘tough guy’ that his presence here seems like just another of his action themed vehicles. Chuck should’ve also not known how to use a gun right away either and maybe even been initially clumsy with it as it would’ve made the character arch from peaceful novice to sharp shooting vigilante stronger.

I liked Michael Winner’s directing particularly the way he shot the interiors of the apartments and his grimy portrayal of the urban New York setting that perfectly played-up the city’s crime ridden paranoia at the time. This is also a great chance to see some young performers before they were famous including Christopher Guest as a patrolman. I also found it amusing that Paul Dooley and Vincent Gardenia share a brief scene together as they both went on to play the dad character in Breaking Away. Dooley portrayed him in the movie version while Gardenia played the part in the short live TV-series.

My Rating: 7 out of 10

Released: July 24, 1974

Runtime: 1Hour 33Minutes

Rated R

Director: Michael Winner

Studio: Paramount

Available: DVD, Blu-ray, Amazon Video, YouTube

The Stone Killer (1973)

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 5 out of 10

4-Word Review: Tough cop is relentless.

Lou Torrey (Charles Bronson) is an old-school cop baffled by a rash of homicides that initially seem like random hits, but really aren’t. As Lou investigates further he uncovers a plot orchestrated by a Mafia Don (Martin Balsam) to use a group of Vietnam Vets to avenge the death of some Mafia families 42 years earlier.

Director Michael Winner, during his later directing projects, became synonymous with stale, cardboard B-pictures and after the year 2000 he dropped out of the movie business completely and became a celebrity food critic in the UK writing in a weekly newspaper column called Winner’s Dinners. Here though he shows signs of being a young talent on the rise looking to make his cinematic mark. He captures the lesser seen areas of L.A. with a flair and the shot selection has style that manages to seamlessly connect the film between its talky moments and action.

Bronson though can’t really act as his facial expressions rarely change and he says his lines in an unemotional way making him seem almost like a computer, but his hard-headed personality in real-life carries over to the big screen making him a perfect fit personality-wise to the character. John Ritter is good as a young cop caught making a lot of rookie mistakes. It’s also interesting seeing Stuart Margolin here as he has an important sequence in the desert, which connects with his appearance  in another Bronson hit Death Wish that also had him in the sandy landscape.

The story, which is based on a novel by John Gardner entitled ‘A Complete State of Death’ comes off as flimsy and just an excuse to tie-in a lot of loosely related action sequences. The plot is hard-to-believe and the villain is more like a caricature and barely seen.

There’s some enjoyable moments including Bronson’ relentless chase in a car of a police suspect, played by Paul Koslo, who tries to evade him by tearing through the city streets on a motorbike. Watching Chuck drive through park tables with people trying jump out of the way,  going into oncoming traffic and even storefront windows is impressive on the surface, but ultimately makes the character come-off badly. In real-life a cop barreling his vehicle through areas with so much foot traffic would make him irresponsible and a menace to society as he puts too many people in direct danger simply for his pursuit of one person.  In most cases there would’ve been casualties and Bronson’s character could’ve easily been fired or sued.

The mass assassination of all the Mafia Dons has pizazz, but ultimately it’s just one giant marketing ploy as it borrows many elements from other hit movies of that time including Dirty Harry and The Godfather then blends it together with over-the-top action and a farfetched plot.

My Rating: 5 out of 10

Released: August 8, 1973

Runtime: 1 Hour 35 Minutes

Rated R

Director: Michael Winner

Studio: Columbia Pictures

Available: DVD, Amazon Video, Blu-ray

Messenger of Death (1988)

messenger of death 2

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 4 out of 10

4-Word Review: Chuck visits Mormon country.

Three young mothers and their children are shot to death in their home. The police suspect it may have something to do with their religious affiliation, but Denver journalist Garret Smith (Charles Bronson) thinks it’s the water company that is behind it, but as the investigation continues and with the help of fellow journalist Jastra (Trish Van Devere) the identity of who it really is surprises everyone.

The movie is unsettling from the beginning as we witness the brutal murders, which sets things at a downbeat tone. However, it also gets the viewer emotional jarred enough to want to see the killer brought to justice. The mystery is intricate for the most part and keeps you intrigued although by the end I had pretty much figured it out.

For a Bronson flick the action is minimal. There is one big shootout, but it doesn’t last long. The film’s best and most exciting sequence is when two big semi-trucks get on either side of the jeep that Garret and Jastra (Trish Van Devere) are riding in and try crushing it as it moves down the road. The scene is vivid, but suffers from the issue where neither occupant is wearing seatbelts and the vehicle does not have airbags and turns over on itself three times, which would most assuredly kill or permanently injure anyone inside and yet the two are able to miraculously get out without even a scratch.

Bronson does not carry a gun here and he has always had one in so many of his other movies that seeing without one makes him look almost naked. For an ordinary 60-something journalist his fighting skills seem too impressive. I was willing to buy into his ability to fight off a much younger professional hitman one time by using some quick thinking, but then to be able to do it again to the same person later on and give him a severe beating in the process seemed too farfetched.

Veteran character actor Jeff Corey as a fiery preacher is good in support as well as John Ireland who plays his brother. During the mid-80’s Ireland once put a full page add in Variety begging for work, so it’s good to see that those efforts paid off with his appearance here.

To-date this marks Van Devere’s last theatrical project and neither her character nor her performance adds much, but it was still nice to see a man and woman work together and not have it automatically turn sexual or into a relationship. Marilyn Hassett plays Bronson’s wife, but she was 26 years younger than him, which makes seeing them together look a bit weird.

Gene Davis who gave a terrible performance as a serial killer in an earlier Bronson flick portrays one of the hit-men. Fortunately his screen-time is contained, so his limited acting skills don’t ruin the whole picture. The way he dies made me chuckle a little as he gets stabbed while standing at a urinal and yet when he turns around his you-know-what isn’t hanging out even though I thought it probably should’ve been.

The climactic moment where the person behind the murders gets ‘unmasked’ is a little too ‘Hollywood’ and doesn’t pack the punch that a film like this needed and thus gives this already average action flick a slightly below average rating.

My Rating: 4 out of 10

Released: September 16, 1988

Runtime: 1Hour 31Minutes

Rated R

Director: J. Lee Thompson

Studio: The Cannon Group

Available: VHS, DVD, Amazon Instant Video

10 to Midnight (1983)

10tomidnight

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 3 out of 10

4-Word Review: Killer in the nude.

Warren Stacy (Gene Davis) has little luck with women and kills those who have previously rejected his advances and does so while being completely in the nude. Leo Kessler (Charles Bronson) is the cop on his case, but doesn’t have enough evidence to arrest him, so he decides to steal some of the blood sample from Warren’s latest victim, which is being stored at the police lab and is the very rare AB type and plant it on Warren’s clothing when he is not in his apartment. Warren is then brought in for questioning and when police find the clothing and blood evidence he is arrested, but Leo eventually admits to planting the evidence and is fired. The incensed Warren decides to get his revenge by going after Leo’s grown daughter Laurie (Lisa Eilbacher) and it is up to Leo to try and stop him before it is too late.

The film has an interesting twist to the Dirty Harry police-type dramas that too many times were solely focused on the renegade cop doing whatever it takes to bring in the bad guy no matter how many rules he broke in the process. However, this film nicely explores to an extent the reason for due process and how an overzealous cop can sometimes be more of the problem than the solution. Unfortunately it is not enough to save it as the majority of the movie is too routine and mechanical.

The action segments are unexciting and poorly directed. The scene where one of Warren’s victims just stands there whimpering while making no attempt to struggle and fight back seems artificial and dull. The final foot chase between Warren and Laurie looks staged and photographed in a way that offers no tension.

Davis is boring as the villain and has a deer-in-headlights look. His body movements are stiff and robotic and he delivers his lines in a monotone fashion. His pretty-boy male model face adds nothing and his nude scenes, which are shown only from the back does not add the spark that was intended. A good thriller needs a bad-guy actor that commands the screen, but Davis doesn’t even come close and makes Bronson who isn’t considered all that strong of an actor to begin with look brilliant by comparison. This film could have been much stronger had an established and talented character actor been given the role like John Malkovich or John Turturro.

Andrew Stevens is adequate as Leo’s young by-the-book partner, but Eilbacher is quite dull. Wilford Brimley adds some personality as an investigator, but is underused and Geoffrey Lewis scores a few points as Steven’s conniving lawyer.

There is a scene where Leo and Andrew are driving along and having a conversation inside an unmarked squad car that brought to mind one of my biggest pet peeves, which are characters in movies never wearing their seatbelts. I have always worn mine whether I am in my car or someone else’s and of course these days it is the law, but it seems almost insane that police characters wouldn’t especially since they could be careening down the street at high speeds at any second if they are suddenly dispatched to a crime scene. Having them not wear seatbelts does not make them look anymore macho and instead makes them come off as stupid and reckless.

My Rating: 3 out of 10

Released: March 11, 1983

Runtime: 1Hour 41Minutes

Rated R

Director: J. Lee Thompson

Studio: Cannon Film Distributors

Available: VHS, DVD, Amazon Instant Video

Murphy’s Law (1986)

murphys law

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 6 out of 10

4-Word Review: Psycho frames arresting cop.

Jack Murphy (Charles Bronson) is an aging cop who drinks too much and has lost a bit of an edge as he even ends up getting taken advantage of in embarrassing fashion by a young female carjacker named Arabella (Kathleen Wilhoite). Now he is being stalked by Joan Freeman (Carrie Snodgress) a criminal he put into jail ten years ago, but is now free and out for revenge. When she frames him for the murder of his ex-wife Jan (Angel Tompkins) he goes on the run. The problem is that he is now handcuffed to that same gal he arrested for carjacking and not only is there a big difference in their ages, but they also can’t agree on anything nor get along.

This is a fun and lively action flick that manages to put a new spin on the Bronson formula. The pairing of Chuck with a young actress is great and the main reason this is so diverting although the idea of having female psychotic wasn’t bad either. The action is pretty good including a nifty chase inside an airport as well as the exciting climactic sequence filmed inside the famous Bradbury Building that takes full advantage of the building’s multi-level balconies in its central atrium.

Wilhoite is peppy and engaging and seems to have no problem holding her own with a much older and more established actor. The wide variety of insulting adjectives that she uses on everyone and anybody is fun although it ends up getting a bit overplayed.

Bronson looks tired and washed-up, but it works great with his character and I thought this was one of his best latter career performances and when he needs to he can still kick-some-ass which is also fun. My only complaint is the character’s tendency to somehow ‘humiliate’ certain people by implying that they are gay which makes him seem homophobic and the film dated and out-of-touch.

Snodgress is excellent in a rare turn for her as a heavy. The age lines on her plain, but still uniquely attractive face has a certain odd sexual appeal especially as the blood of her victim’s splatters across it. The only issue I had with her character is that she enters one of her victim’s homes without a weapon of her own and instead uses the victim’s own rifle which is hanging on the wall to shoot him and although she is shown loading it with bullets that she apparently brought along my question would be how would she know they were the right bullets for that type of gun especially since she had never been to that place before?

Richard Romanus plays Frank Vincenzo another one of Jack’s nemesis and I got a kick out of his sobbing when Jack plays a game of Russian roulette with him. The character is also unique in that he wears a very visible hearing aid, which is interesting to one extent, but it never comes into play so I wasn’t sure why it was put in.

Despite some interesting variations it still ends up being rather one-dimensional and mechanical. It is entertaining to watch, but nothing memorable. Bronson’s wife Jill Ireland does not appear here, but gets listed as the film’s co-producer.

My Rating: 6 out of 10

Released: April 18, 1986

Runtime: 1Hour 40Minutes

Rated R

Director: J. Lee Thompson

Studio: The Cannon Group

Available: VHS, DVD

Death Hunt (1981)

death hunt 2

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 7 out of 10

4-Word Review: Running for his life.

Last year during January we reviewed films Charles Bronson did during the 70’s, so this year we will look at some of the ones he did in the 80’s. This one is based on the true story of Albert Johnson who was a fugitive that sparked one of the largest manhunts in Canadian history.

Bronson plays Johnson a loner who lives by himself in an isolated cabin situated in the corner regions of the Northwest Territories and Yukon. He comes upon a vicious dog fight that has been orchestrated by some of the local men. Feeling sorry for the bloodied animal he tells the dog’s owner Hazel (Ed Lauter) that he will buy the animal, but Hazel refuses and Johnson ends up giving him he money and taking the animal anyways. Outraged Hazel goes to the local sheriff Millen (Lee Marvin) telling him that Johnson ‘stole’ his animal, but Millen knowing that Hazel was part of an illegal dogfight does nothing about it, so Hazel gets some men together to form a posse. A shootout ensues at Johnson’s cabin and when one of the men gets killed a reluctant Millen is forced to go after Johnson who goes on the run in the frozen, snow covered rugged mountains.

The film is an exciting high-grade adventure from the very start. The tension mounts perfectly and Jerrold Immel’s pounding orchestral score keeps the pace going. Director Peter Hunt mounts some great action sequences including the shootout and standoff at the cabin and also a heart-stopping moment where Johnson jumps off a steep cliff and onto a tall pine tree. The character’s ragged personalities perfectly reflect the raw climate and the internal bickering that goes on amongst the men as the chase Johnson creates an interesting subtext.

The film was shot in Northern Alberta, which is good because it gives the viewer a taste of the cold climate. The aerial footage of the mountainous landscape shown over the opening credits is breathtaking. However, it was clearly not filmed in the dead-of-winter as the sun was too high in the sky and although there was snow it was obviously thawing thus making the moments were the men complain about the bitter cold not ring quite as true.

Marvin is excellent and pretty much takes over the film. He looks older and tired here, but it works with the character that seems to be coasting and uninterested in getting involved with anything. Having both the main characters likable and relatable makes the chase more captivating and psychological complex from both ends.

Bronson is good in a role that takes advantage of his stoic nature although he only gets shown intermittently and it is Marvin who gets the most screen time and the best lines. I liked the character’s relentless will to survive and ability to adapt to the circumstances, but I wanted some explanation for how he was able to survive inside his cabin when it gets exploded with dynamite, but unfortunately one never comes.

Angie Dickinson who was 50 at the time and looked to have had a facelift and some work around her eyes is wasted in a completely pointless and forgettable part. Andrew Stevens who has proved effective in bad-guy roles plays a very clean-cut, rule-oriented Mountie here and does okay. Durable character actor Henry Beckman has a great small role as a shifty trapper who sits-in-the-shadows only to come out and get involved at the most surprising moments.

The film takes a lot of liberties with the true-life incident and was highly criticized at the time for being too ‘Hollywoodnized’, but it succeeds at being entertaining although I thought it would have been appropriate to have some denouncement at the end.

My Rating: 7 out of 10

Released: May 22, 1981

Runtime: 1Hour 37Minutes

Rated R

Director: Peter Hunt

Studio: 20th Century Fox

Available: VHS, DVD, Blu-ray