During his winter years in the 80s, international action star Charles Bronson made movie after movie for the maligned Cannon Group Inc, the production company run by Menachem Golan and Yoram Globus. Cannon got its start making (and did quite well with) exploitation pictures and just about every one of Bronson's films for them has the flavor of grindhouse exploitation cinema in the mix. But that does not mean the movies are plain bad, or so bad they're good, far from it. While Bronson did make some clunkers (Death Wish 2 in my opinion) and a few cult classics perfect for the MST3K treatment (Death Wish 3), some of his Cannon pictures are quite good. The quite good ones were usually directed by J. Lee Thompson. This box set gathers together the Bronson/Thompson team ups, with the exception of Death Wish 4: The Crackdown. All feature widescreen anamorphic transfers, again with the exception of the not included Death Wish 4: The Crackdown. Each movie is a solid piece of entertainment where Bronson did not simply phone in an embarrassed and wooden performance. Odd trivia: the cover of the box set uses an image for Death Wish 4, did I mention it's not inlucded in this set?
10 TO MIDNIGHT (1984): Was the first thriller Thompson and Bronson worked on for Cannon (the two had previously teamed on The Evil That Men Do and, I believe, The White Buffalo) and its one of the best. Bronson plays a cop (a standard role for him when he wasn't replaying Paul Kersey in Death Wish sequel after Death Wish sequel) who matches wits with a cunning serial killer. Gene Davis plays the killer with a bemused and arrogant indifference that might appear wooden, until his mask of control slips. Andrew Stevens is Bronson's book smart partner and the lovely Lisa Eilbacher plays Bronson's estranged daughter (obviously she got her looks from her mother). Bronson grows desperate when his emotional investigation puts his daughter at risk. The characters and mind games are well set up in the script, but it degenerates into a slasher movie in the final reel. Nonetheless, it's a solidly crafted thriller.
MURPHY'S LAW (1986): Bronson is a cop (again) who is dealing with his wife's leaving him by hiding in a bottle of booze. When he is framed for her murder, he escapes (with foul mouthed girl-woman Kathleen Wilhoite shackled to his wrist) to find the real killer. Gail Morgan Hickman's script (she also wrote Death Wish 4: The Crackdown and the story for the third Dirty Harry movie, The Enforcer) won't win any awards, but the story places enough obstacles in Bronson and Wilhoite's path to keep the yarn from getting boring.
MESSENGER OF DEATH (1988): This is a real change of pace for Bronson. He plays an investigative reporter trying to get to the bottom of a mass murder that, at first, seems to be result of a venom filled blood feud between two fundalmentalist Mormon brothers. The mystery gets the emphasis over the action (though there is enough of that to keep it from getting boring) and only a rushed conclusion keeps it from being more than a tad above average.
KINJITE: FORBIDDEN SUBJECTS (1989): This was last movie from the Bronson/Thompson/Cannon team and it's the weakest. Bronson is a vice cop slowly cracking from the pressures of dealing with the sleaze soaked Job. His obsessive hunt for a particular pimp named Duke is hampered by things like due process and his teenaged daughter getting groped in a crowded bus. What he does not know is that the father of the child kidnapped by Duke is the same man who felt his daughter up on the bus! The unpleasant subject matter (molestation and child prostitution) just isn't mixed well with the standard plot. It isn't there to make commentary about the characters, it's there to either titilate or shock. The script needed a little more work ironing out those story problems to really cook.
Any fan of Bronson or Cannon or both (they're out there, I should know, I am one of them) will want this collection, as it pretty much puts the best of Bronson's Cannon years in one box. Recommended.