Movie Reviews 472 – Mr. Majestyk (1974)

Nobody is going to argue that Charles Bronson will always be synonymous with his role as the vigilante killer in Death Wish and it’s sequels. Bronson made a career of playing the tough ‘quiet guy’ and does not stray from that characterization here in Mr. Majestyk, a film by Richard Fleischer (better known for his Science Fiction and Fantasy films such as 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea) and from an Elmore Leonard original screenplay.

Bronson is Vince Majestyk, a divorced Vietnam veteran who did a short stint in Folsom prison after a bar brawl. Having recently taken up farming to put that muddled past behind him he wants nothing more than to get his crop of watermelons harvested to stay afloat. But that requires the use of migrant Mexican labourers to help him get the job done and his first obstacle is a tenacious union busting twit who thinks he can tell Majestyk who will be tending his fields.

While Vince takes care of that little problem in short order, it does earn him a little time in a local prison and it’s there that he first rankles mobster hitman Frank Renda (Al Lettieri). Renda is no small time assassin though, he’s one of those few highly reliable executioners for hire with a crew of his own. When a prisoner bus transport trip is interrupted by Renda’s rescuer’s in a shootout, Vince finds himself driving the bus away from the scene with only himself and Renda. But Vince’s flight for freedom is not just a plan to run away. Instead he tries to use Renda as collateral to bargain for dismissal of his own charges.

The irate Renda manages to escape and instead of fleeing to Mexico as his mistress and entourage advises, he wants insists on getting revenge. He wants Majestyk dead and by his own hands. This results in a multiple pronged story with Renda hunting Majestyk, cops observing everything, and Vince still just trying to get that crop harvested before it rots.

While the script is not as polished as it should be, it is action packed with shootouts, explosions and airborne car chases. Given Majestyk’s choice of wheels it sometimes feels like one long  Ford pickup television commercial. The film even has a bit of comic relief as Renda deals with the inept union buster who got Vince into trouble in the first place, doing more damage than good  while helping Renda and hoping to get another crack at Majestyk on his own.

While a loner at heart, Majestyk is supported by a loyal labourer (Alejandro Rey) and a sympathetic union supporter (Linda Cristal) who comes to his aid and for his heart. Vince is not only a crack shot and daredevil driver, but cunning and determined to take Renda down despite him being hunted one.

While not on par with Death Wish the film that Bronson would make right after this one, it still packs a punch and I’m not even talking about the great “Melon Massacre” scene which you have to see to believe.

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