Tag Archives: Gene Davis

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