For the 16th and final time before succumbing to her lengthy, courageous battle with cancer, Jill Ireland once again played opposite her action hero/superstar husband, Charles Bronson in this Peter Hunt film of the low budget ilk for the Golan-Globus operations at Cannon Films.
“Protecting the highest office in the land demands the toughest man in the business.” so says the trailer.
For this later Bronson actioner, he plays a veteran secret service agent who fully expects to have his team of agents being given the job of looking after the newly elected President of the United States. Instead he draws ‘One Momma”, the first lady played by Ireland who is a strong willed woman and immediately takes a disliking to her chief guardian with the squinty eyes.
It won’t be long before the two are at odds thru a mishap that leaves Jill with a black eye and Charlie being told by Senator Michael Ansara to lay low and let his team do the watchdogging. Included in the team is the young and sexy Jan Gan Boyd who has a thing for her superior but Charlie likes to point out, “We don’t mix business with that other stuff.” That only lasts so long and surprisingly, Bronson has a fling with the youngster. While this is going on Bronson becomes convinced that an old enemy is posing a threat to the First Lady though he has no idea why. Ansara thinks it’s Bronson that is the target and Ireland soon realizes that the threat is all to real after some close call explosions. One of which has a flair for the dramatics and some nice camera work that seems to stand out amongst the other by the numbers scenes. Not knowing who to trust she turns to the one man who looks mean enough to stand up to any threat including her.
Like any self respecting plot, details are shared with us viewers about Bronson’s past to let us know he’s a man who can handle himself in a showdown opposite fifty armed killers if needed. He’s an ex commander of the Delta Force now working White House security and probably has a long list of other accomplishments not shared in order to keep the film at a tight 90 minutes.
It’s around the forty minute mark that the budget begins to expose itself with some less than stellar action sequences involving Bronson on a motorcycle and an obvious stuntman doing a jump for the old timer. To protect the first lady from hitman Erik Stern, Bronson and Ireland take to the highways incognito. A bit far fetched and almost covers the same ground as an earlier film they made back in ’79 titled Love and Bullets. With a team of assassins on their trail, Bronson will take evasive action. This leads to a classic rather dry Bronson response after taking out one of their attackers.
Jill, “Well, we’ve made it to Pickett’s Charge. 15,000 men died here. “
Charlie, “Now it’s 15,001. “
Just another day at the office for the mustached icon.
Not surprisingly, the hit has been ordered from someone within the White House and the reasons why are rather ridiculous but who cares. Surely Jill and Charlie didn’t at the time. This was another opportunity for the couple to work together for the first time since 82’s Death Wish 2 and her first film since her first round with the disease that would come back to claim her life in 1990. Looking as if the budget went dry, the ending is a bit to convenient and abrupt for my liking but it’s far from the worst Cannon/Bronson teaming.
Looking back I was kind of hard on this film from my action hero at the time of it’s release and that was due to setting myself up for a fall. I was a youngster and couldn’t wait till opening night. Bronson had done some rare PR work on an Entertainment Tonight segment and that probably had more to do with Jill’s return to the screen than any desire on Bronson’s part to offer up an interview. It was too close to Love and Bullets and considering Peter Hunt was directing, I expected a far better product. Hunt had directed On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and the superior Bronson-Lee Marvin film, Death Hunt. So the final product was something of a let down. Now I look at it kind of fondly for it’s final teaming of the couple who obviously cared for each other deeply till the end and for the Cannon brand which has steadily developed a cult following as the years have passed.
Not expecting a blockbuster anymore, it’s kind of passable with some Bronson humor for those of us who recognize it when it’s offered and miles ahead of 1988’s Cannon offering Messenger of Death that starred Charlie with Jill back on the sidelines. Jill would actually make a rare appearance without her hubby in another 1987 release titled Caught which would prove to be her final film.
Michael Ansara who had by this point been in films since the 40’s and a favorite of Star Trek fans for his role as a Klingon in the original series episode, Day of the Dove appeared with Bronson way back in 1952’s Diplomatic Courier where they both had unbilled bit parts opposite Tyrone Power.
As is my custom when it comes to Bronson films featured here, I go digging around the vault here at Mike’s Take to flash another original one sheet. Thankfully, Kino Studio Classics recently put this one out on blu ray for Bronson collectors to pick up. Specifically, that means me.