Monday, September 21, 2009

Film Review: MESSENGER OF DEATH (1988, J. Lee Thompson)

Stars: 2.5 of 5.
Running Time: 91 minutes.
Notable Cast or Crew: Charles Bronson, Laurence Luckinbill. Produced by Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus. Directed by J. Lee Thompson (DEATH WISH 4, ST. IVES, CAPE FEAR, THE GUNS OF NAVARONE).
Tag-line: "What the cops can't do, he will." (But they don't say that he'll do it by asking questions and publishing articles, not by gunning down an army of break-dancers.)
Best one-liner: "Bastard child killer!"

MESSENGER OF DEATH is kinda like when all you've got is a warm Schlitz. You like it 'in theory,' you consume it because you feel you have to, and when it's done, you find solace in saying 'well, that wasn't the worst thing ever.'

Bronson: a real trouper.

Still, this is one of the weakest Cannon/Bronson collaborations. Let's get down to brass tacks: BRONSON DOES NOT KILL ANYONE IN THIS MOVIE. Whoa-whoa-whoa! It's okay, take a minute if you have to. Breathe deeply. Look, I can just stop telling you about it if you're gonna flip out. Shall I go on? Okay. He's a newspaper reporter, not a vigilante. The plot involves polygamist compounds, intra-family rivalries, and corporate interests. It's more like a MURDER, SHE WROTE episode than DEATH WISH III. (And though it doesn't really possess any degree of 'quality,' it's clear that the producers of HBO's excellent BIG LOVE watched this at least once.) Bronson picks up a gun, but it's just to shoot an empty coffin.

All of the promotional materials were based around this 10 second scene.

He at one point waves a white flag of surrender.

Bronson gets a little classy with a tux a couple times, but this ain't even ST. IVES.

There's a plot offshoot with Laurence Luckinbill (THE BOYS IN THE BAND) as a glad-handing a-hole politico.

Maybe I've just been spoiled by Bronson mowing down legions of punks with a Browning machine gun. He doesn't even beat anyone up until the last 15 minutes,

though he does smack a guy out of a window with a garbage can (thus fulfilling the 'guy flung out of window' requirement- see also: THE STONE KILLER, ST. IVES, DEATH WISH 2, 3, and 4), and nonchalantly kicks the same guy down some stairs later.

Note the limp wrists of the defeated henchman.

He also yells "Bastard child killer!" without a pause or an emphasis,

so it's unclear if he's calling the killer himself a bastard, or if he's calling the polygamist children he killed 'bastards,' because technically they would be, under official Utah law or whatever. Whew. Anyway, this late in the game Bronson violence leaves you with a slightly better taste in your mouth than you'd have otherwise from the rest of the film, so here's almost three stars, I guess.

-Sean Gill


BronsonFan said...

Haha, "Gonna give us the name, yes?" But feel sorry for you if your drinking Schlitz, man.

Sean Gill said...

As long as you keep it cold, Schlitz is a fine beer.