Thursday, July 16, 2009

Film Review: MR. MAJESTYK (1974, Richard Fleischer)

Stars: 4 of 5.
Running Time: 103 minutes.
Notable Cast or Crew: Charles Bronson, Al Lettieri, Paul Koslo (LOVE AND BULLETS), Lee Purcell (THE GAMBLER, BIG WEDNESDAY), written by Elmore Leonard.
Tag-lines: "He didn't want to be hero... until the day they pushed him too far."
Best one-liner: "You make sounds like you're a mean little ass-kicker... only I ain't convinced. You keep talking and I'm gonna take your head off. " (said by Bronson)

A. Knuckleheads mess with Bronson:

B. Knuckleheads get what they deserve:

Simple, right? Well, not always. MR. MAJESTYK was made in an era when action films weren't afraid to be socially relevant: films like COFFY, PRIME CUT, and CHARLEY VARRICK; films that hit hard and were well made. [And MAJESTYK's influence has reverberated from Soderbergh's THE LIMEY (the one-man assault on a luxury home finale) to QT's DEATH PROOF (Bronson hangs on to the bed of a pick-up truck in a thrilling chase punctuated by 'horror film’ reveals).] The grittiness was inherent, not a CGI filter added in post. The stars' bodies were chiseled by backbreaking work and war injuries, not by elliptical machines and the Master Cleanse diet.

As Vince Majestyk, Bronson strides into this film with a brown cloth flat cap and a jeans jacket caring about one thing, and one thing only: getting his watermelon crop in on time. "Oh-ho-ho snarf snarf he's a MELON FARMER." Well, before you say anything else, you child, have you ever hoisted a SINGLE watermelon into a truck in 100 degree heat, much less 1,000 of them?

Majestyk doesn't give a shit about the status quo.

He pisses off cops, the mob, and rednecks alike (including a swarthily intense Al Lettieri - Sollozzo in THE GODFATHER-

and the simpering Paul Koslo, the over-the-top villain from ROBOT JOX). He gives smartass winks, he headbutts through a windshield to escape a car, and he lies in wait like a real pro.

When offered a bribe, he calmly retorts, "I've been to L.A., and I've been to Mexico. And I've been laid." He stands up for the rights of migrants who are denied use of a bathroom, pays a fair wage to non-whites (angering the good ole boys), and it's a powerful moment when he realizes that the slew of injustices perpetrated against him are just par for the course for his Hispanic friends. And in an age where Chipotle is still senselessly abusing tomato pickers in Florida, a document like MAJESTYK is still a blast to watch, but goddammit, it's important. Four stars.

-Sean Gill

1 comment:

skeelo said...

hallelujah: "The stars' bodies were chiseled by backbreaking work and war injuries, not by elliptical machines and the Master Cleanse diet."

I remember having an odd reaction to the scene where all the watermelons get destroyed. Like, "you are destroying all this food just to make a point in the movie!!?!?!?" But in the end it's worth it.