“Beach Blanket Bronson” is the theme for August here at the Lagoon. So get out of that sun, splash some Aloe on those burns and crank up the AC for a cool down with the icy star of the ‘Death Wish” series.
A brutal home invasion/ massacre leads a reporter on a mission to punish those responsible in this talky 80’s action fest from Cannon Film Group(the 80’s home for Chuck Norris and Charles Bronson flicks ).
The rule at Cannon was to earmark all incoming scripts for either Mr. Norris or Mr. Bronson. Since Mr. B could handle dialogue, and was pushing 60, he got to star in this thriller that has more plot that action sequences . Here he is cast as a journalist who is never seen at a computer and has only one scene where he actually takes notes.
What he has is a license to carry a gun(which he never fires), the ability to leap to conclusions, and the respect of his peers(a small town reporter offers to drive him to a location three hours away and doesn’t even want to know what story he’s working on).
The opening murder sees three wives (it’s a Mormon household)and several children gunned down. Bronson investigates and figures out a symbol painted in blood at the scene is an “avenging angel” motif associated with the Mormon faith. The police incarcerate the dad, Orville Beecher. The Chief doesn’t believe a guy named Orville would do such a horrendous thing but jails him for his own safety.
Bronson visits Orville and manages to win him over . He is told to seek out Orville’s preacher dad ,Willis, and tell him what’s happened. Willis is in the middle of a sermon about righteous vengeance when Bronson shows up at the church. The pair don’t hit it off but Willis does tell him that his brother ,Zenas, must be responsible.
Zenas turns around and blames Willis. Bronson is confused but dedicates himself to keeping the brothers from killing each other. In a somewhat exciting scene he gets them to throw down their weapons and talk to each other. They are promptly killed when they do it. Charles runs off to find who fired the round and spies strangers taking off but can’t catch them.
Eventually Bronson follows enough bread crumbs to learn that these men are being set up so a business deal can go through. Turns out the real criminal is one of Bronson’s own white collar buddies but which of his ‘well to do friends’ is guilty? The final scene has him showing up at a political dinner and finally unmasking the mastermind pulling the strings. He manages this hat trick while publicly thrashing the paid killer who did the dirty work. It’s a decent scene that works because of the long build up.
This isn’t exactly vintage Bronson but it is fun to see him trying to stop vengeance for a change (in most Cannon films he dispensed it). The director here is J. Lee Thompson, who made ‘The Guns of Navarone” and ” Cape Fear” in the 60’s but rode out the 80’s making a gaggle of Bronson flicks which included “Murphy’s Law,” “From 10 to Midnight” and ‘Death Wish 4.” He delivers a fine suspense film here though fans of gunplay will be a tad disappointed. That said there is some choice dialogue and Bronson does get to throw a guy out a bathroom window (though the felon still escapes).
Best Line: ” Visit the buffet and stuff yourselves. Get drunk and covet your neighbor’s wife.”
Tom Doty is a columnist for The Floyd County Times.