Was there any doubt that for this edition of the Video Store Action Heroes where I got to choose the theme that I would suggest all four of us watch and shine the light on a Charles Bronson action flick? When I refer to the four of us I am directing you to Todd over at Cinema Monolith, Greg at Destroy All Fanboys and Mikey known to one and all as The Wolfman. Oh, and of course myself who I believe has made it widely known over the past five years on line that I am a rather big fan of the Death Wish icon. To keep my partners in movie crime toeing the line I threw in the challenge of reviewing a Bronson flick that saw the mustached tough guy leaving his beloved wife, Jill Ireland, on the sidelines.
Which brings me to one of Bronson’s best films of the 1980’s and one that saw him take a leave of absence from Cannon Films and join Tri-Star for this release. Though he may have found a new home to release this violent entry he did bring along his usual production partners, Lance Hool and Pancho Kohner as well as the director he favored during his final years as a box office draw, J. Lee Thompson.
Bronson is in familiar territory as a hitman once again but unlike his 1972’s Mechanic, this time his killer for hire is more like his avenging Death Wish vigilante looking to rid the world of a sadistic torturer for hire, wonderfully essayed by Joseph Maher. Right from the opening scene one knows they’re in for a bloody outing when a naked man is chained to swinging bars and electrocuted for the benefit of some South American dictators as Maher delivers a classroom speech on the skills involved to torture men and women. As we’ll soon see the man was an acquaintance of Bronson and that can only mean one thing, “Bronson’s Loose Again.”
Actually the movie poster for this title made it quite clear. “It’s 1984 and Bronson’s Never Been Hotter!” Then there was the trailer that stated matter of factly, “In the execution of justice, there is no executioner like him. In the name of revenge, there is just one name ….. Bronson.”
When Jose Ferrer delivers the fatal news to the retired Bronson who lives a beachcombers life, the man is back in action. In order to look like a tourist, Charlie enlists the dead man’s widow Theresa Saldana and her child to go along to Guatemala where “The Doctor” is currently plying his trade and blackmailing local politicians including a young John Glover. It’s here that we’ll meet Maher’s private security force that includes Raymond St. Jacques and Jorge Luke as well as his depraved sister played coldly by Antoinette Bower.
Once Bronson finishes his reconnaissance on his intended target he sets about removing key figures surrounding Maher in violent fashion. Just ask St. Jacques who is led to Bronson’s lair with Saldana under the pretence of a night of wife swapping!!!! You heard me. Charlie suggests a 3 way and it’s scenes like this that make the film all that much more enjoyable. They also include a bit where Charlie gets stuck under a bed with two ladies having a lesbian interlude above him and another scene most Bronson fans are well aware of when he takes out a giant sized goon by gripping the man’s testicles and doing some major twisting and squeezing with both hands till our behemoth passes out.
Part of the reason this Thompson directed feature plays so well is it’s an outdoor action flick as much as it’s based in the city streets of a Latin American country. Unlike a good majority of Bronson’s films of the decade, he isn’t a cop or vigilante moving about police stations and back alleys. With each killing Maher’s force is dwindling. It’s all going to lead to a just climax, one with a few twists of it’s own before due process is rendered.
I suppose if one is turned off by the violent nature of “the Doctor” then I can understand you not liking the film but on the other hand this is arguably the most physical performance that Bronson delivered in the decade along with Death Hunt and Murphy’s Law. There’s really three ways to watch this film. The comical bits of Bronson and the scenes previously mentioned, strictly for the action oriented sequences that made him an icon of revenge cinema but thirdly, try watching it from Theresa Saldana’s point of view. It becomes a harrowing experience that is filled with terror and fear. Nicely done by the one time victim of a knife carrying madman intent on murdering the young actress.
Here’s my story from 1984 when the film came out and I was looking to score the original one sheet. At the time I had a History teacher in high school who fancied himself a Clint Eastwood wannabe. I liked Clint but was a Bronson crazed teenager. In my growing poster collection I had a small video poster of Eastwood holding his 44 Magnum pointed it at the camera. It was about half the size of a standard movie poster. I flashed that poster to the teach and said it’s yours on one condition. You have to get me the poster for The Evil That Men Do from the local theater playing it downtown in the city I still call home. He came through somehow and we made the switch. Yup, still have it all these years late. Eventually I nailed a copy of the alternate B style as well. What’s your preference?
Now don’t forget to check out my fellow video store action hero pals to see what Bronson film they’ve decided to feature and please don’t tell them I bent my own rules just a bit on this selection. You see Jill Ireland scored a producer’s credit on this one. I’ll leave you with this, the memorable scene where Charlie forgoes a gun and uses his hands to take out the giant who gets a bit too close to the lovely Theresa. After all he did warn him. “Buddy we didn’t come in here looking for trouble.”