Tag Archives: Elmore Leonard

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

Joe Kidd (1972)

joe kidd

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 3 out of 10

4-Word Review: Bounty hunter tracks revolutionary.

Joe Kidd (Clint Eastwood) is a bounty hunter sitting in jail on trumped up charges. As he is about to have his case heard the courthouse is invaded by Luis Chama (John Saxon) and his band of Mexican revolutionaries who are angered that their U.S. land claims have been denied. They threaten a full scale war against the American government and suddenly Kidd finds himself in the middle when powerful landowner Frank Harlan (Robert Duvall) wants to use Kidd’s abilities to track Chama down so that he can kill him before he can ferment any more unrest. Kidd and Frank do not like each other, but Kidd reluctantly goes along while planning at some point to stop Frank and his men before they can do anymore harm.

If there is one thing to take from this film it is Duvall’s performance. This is the movie where he really came into his own and his career transitioned from small character parts and guest spots in TV-shows to an all-around dynamic lead actor. His presence here is commanding and he plays the bad guy with such zeal that it ends up taking over the entire picture while smothering the usually reliable Eastwood until he and his character become bland and transparent.

Unfortunately the script written by Elmore Leonard cannot match the same energy or creativity. It starts out well and has all the rugged ingredients one expects from a good western and it’s even directed by John Sturges who’s noted for putting together great action flicks, but unfortunately at some point it goes flat and this is mainly because there is not much of a second or third act. The scenario itself is too predictable and gets played out in a mechanical, by-the-numbers fashion. It is also devoid of much action. The part where Kidd uses his telescope rifle to pick off a shooter at long range that the others can’t is okay, but the scene where he derails a train and sends it crashing through a saloon seems implausible and not as exciting to see as it may sound.

I enjoyed Kidd’s antagonistic relationship with Lamarr (Don Stroud) who is one of Harlan’s men and a young, long haired cocksure guy that immediately gets a vendetta against the more stoic Kidd, which adds some zest, but then the film squashes it too soon by having Kidd kill Lamarr in a rather unimaginative and uneventful way. In fact the whole climactic finish works in the same way with Kidd mechanically knocking off each of Harlan’s men in a fashion similar to what Gary Cooper did to the bad guys in High Noon, which was a far better movie. Kidd’s final shootout with Harlan is a particular letdown and should’ve been played out more while only helping to cement this as one of Eastwood’s weakest and more forgettable westerns that he has done.

My Rating: 3 out of 10

Released: July 14, 1972

Runtime: 1Hour 28Minutes

Rated PG

Director: John Sturges

Studio: Universal

Available: VHS, DVD, Blu-ray, Amazon Instant Video