Sunday, November 03, 2013

No One Dictates To Bronson

Charles Bronson plays a retired assassin named Holland in THE EVIL THAT MEN DO, a bloody thriller shot in Mexico. Bronson made a lot of sleazy films during the 1980s, most of them directed by J. Lee Thompson (HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME), but few plumbed the depths of depravity that this film does.

Amid the bloodshed is a shotgun blast to the head, torture by battery cables attached to the genitals, Bronson twisting a baddie’s junk with both hands, and a man ravaged by dozens of pick-wielding miners as Thompson's camera lingers on the gory remains. However, the most harrowing scene contains no physical violence at all. To lure Bronson out of retirement from his cushy island retreat to kill a notorious torturer known as the Doctor (Joseph Maher), humanitarian physician Hector Lomelin (Jose Ferrer) plays him a videotape in which the madman’s victims describe in detail the physical horrors inflicted upon them. It’s harrowing stuff for a mainstream action film, but it sure gives the audience a reason to take Bronson’s side.

The Doctor's clients include Central American puppet regimes and the U.S. government, which allows Thompson and screenwriters David Lee Henry (ROAD HOUSE) and John Crowther (KILL AND KILL AGAIN) to examine the CIA's complicated relationship with Central America during the 1980s in the context of a Charles Bronson thriller. To get into Guatemala without raising suspicion, Bronson poses as a family man accompanied by his “wife” Rhiana (Theresa Saldana), the widow of Holland’s journalist friend who was a Doctor victim.

The plot, based on R. Lance Hill’s 1978 novel, doesn’t get much more complex than that, as Holland picks off the Doctor’s henchmen and then kidnaps the sadist’s similarly perverse sister (Antoinette Bower) to lure the Doctor into the open. The effete Maher (SISTER ACT) is an interesting choice as heavy, playing the Doctor with a dignified air, despite his casual sadism. Saldana is certainly sympathetic in her first feature since surviving a stalker's murder attempt. She struggles, though, with a poorly drawn character who berates Holland for being a cold-blooded killer, yet insists on accompanying him on his mission.

Tri-Star released THE EVIL THAT MEN DO in September 1984, where it debuted at #2 at the box office just behind the Steve Martin/Lily Tomlin body-switch comedy ALL OF ME. Hard to believe there was much crossover between audiences that weekend. Except me, that is.

1 comment:

English Teacher X said...

Well, sure, this one wasa pretty gory and sadistic, but I'd say 10 TO MIDNIGHT, with its numerous naked screaming female victims, probably tops this one in pure sleaze.