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Wednesday, June 14, 2017

THE STONE KILLER (1973)

This Michael Winner/Charles Bronson film came out the year before they struck vigilante paydirt with DEATH WISH/’74. (They’d been milking violence since CHATO’S LAND and THE MECHANIC in ’72.) But where DEATH WISH caught the Zeitgeist in having Bronson’s regular guy pushed toward shoot-em-up revenge, here he’s no fish-out-of-water agent of death just a trigger-happy cop with quick fists in the interrogation room. Leaving NYC for L.A. after shooting one punk too many, he winds up working both coasts when some suspects get bumped off mob-style. Coincidence? Connection? Turns out Godfather Martin Balsam (really?) is on a Mafioso consolidation spree and there’s been collateral damage. Winner was just about the coarsest of mainstream hacks: kick down a door and find a titillating lesbian couple, bluntly staged chases & fight scenes, action that slams but doesn’t build, and zoom-lensed non sequitor transition shots. At least he cast well, with actors who can take care of themselves. (Hey!, it’s John Ritter & Norman Fell before THREE’S COMPANY.) If he could only keep his coasts straight. (Where are we?) Or sort out his car chase drivers before wrapping things up with a cheap amoral tag and a witticism from Mr. Bronson. Perhaps the crap cinematography by Richard Moore was intentional.

SCREWY THOUGHT OF THE DAY: Winner, who’s on the short list for Worst Film of All Time (normal budget division) with WON TON TON: THE DOG WHO SAVED HOLLYWOOD/’76, did try to break out of his rut adapting Alan Ayckbourn’s darkly farcical A CHORUS OF DISAPPROVAL/'89 (with Jeremy Irons as the unwitting Lothario in an amateur theatrical company - a fabulous project), but he simply hadn’t the chops for the job.

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