Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Love And Bullets

Definitely not one of Charles Bronson’s best star vehicles, though LOVE AND BULLETS has a few points in his favor. Location shooting in Switzerland is definitely one of those points, as are the great supporting cast of character actors and several well-crafted action scenes directed by COOL HAND LUKE’s Stuart Rosenberg (John Huston is rumored to have directed some of LOVE AND BULLETS, but he bowed out during pre-production for health reasons).

Definitely not in the film’s favor are the performances by its leading lady and its chief villain. You would think I would be inured to embarrassing hambone acting by Jill Ireland and Rod Steiger by now, but not yet. Ireland was never a good actress — there’s a reason her husband Bronson was the only one who hired her — but her decision to play her role as gangster’s moll Jackie Pruitt with a combination Southern accent/ditzy blonde voice was not among her best. At the same time, Steiger, one of the worst actors ever to win an Academy Award, plays mob boss Joe Bomposa with a subtlety that matches his toupee, shouting every line and throwing in a stutter to boot.

Plot by writers Wendell Mayes (DEATH WISH) and John Melson (BATTLE OF THE BULGE) sends Arizona cop Charlie Conger (Bronson) to Switzerland to snatch Jackie and bring her back to America to testify against boyfriend Bomposa. Bomposa’s men, who include attorney Strother Martin (BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID) and Val Avery (BLACK CAESAR), are a step ahead and convince their reluctant boss to recruit Italian hitman Vittorio Farroni (Henry Silva, playing the 64th Italian hitman of his career) to bump off Jackie.

From there, it’s pretty much a chase across snowbanks with Charlie and Jackie on foot, in a car, on a ferry, on a train, on a tram, on a hay wagon, in a boat with Silva and his assistants (why does he have assistants...to beef up the body count!) mowing down plenty of innocent bystanders, but clumsily missing the target. Strangely, Bronson and Ireland basically remade LOVE AND BULLETS as ASSASSINATION, which is also not a very good film. Bronson was not the most emotive of stars, but he doesn’t seem to be enjoying himself much here, despite a free Swiss vacation with his wife. Interestingly, he doesn’t shoot anyone, but he does turn a lamp into a blowgun.

No comments: