MR. MAJESTYK (1974)
Rating: 3 out of 4 /Buy the DVD Here
Directed by: Richard Fleischer
Starring: Charles Bronson, Al Lettieri, Linda Cristal and Paul Koslo
THE PLAN: Melon farmer Vince Majestyk (Charles Bronson) is unfairly arrested after beating up on a douche-bag who's trying to muscle in on his business. Once in custody, he has the unfortunate bad luck to make the acquaintance of Frank Renda (Al Lettieri), mob hitman and all around scumbag. The two are put on a bus to be transferred to prison when it's set upon by Renda's flunkies: a jail break. This particular jail break doesn't go as planned however, as Majestyk is able to abscond with the bus and Renda, in an effort to make a deal with the cops: He'll return Renda if his charges are dropped. This doesn't go as planned either, and after Renda escapes Majestyk's custody, he swears an oath to make the melon farmer pay with his life for the insult.
THE KILL:It's somewhat hard to summarize MR. MAJESTYK in a two or three sentence paragraph, as you can probably tell from the above description. The movie's slightly ridiculous set-up (all of what's written above happens within the movie's first 20 minutes, give or take) is made all the more difficult to relay thanks to its unique personality: Slightly off-kilter, a bit dangerous and unwilling to compromise. Sort of like Mr. Majestyk himself.
"Do I look good in this hat? You know what the right answer is..."
Charles Bronson has never been more likable. We can usually count on him to be stoic and take-charge, but his Vince Majestyk has a charming affability that just seems odd coming from Bronson. Perhaps it's due to the fact that the great Elmore Leonard wrote the script. Leonard's characters are often cocky, clever renegades who are quick to hatch a plan and even quicker to hatch another if the first one doesn't work out. Bronson's patented take-no-shit persona comes through, as always, but Majestyk seems to be loving life just a little bit more, has plans, enjoys the good things. He's fighting his adversaries in the film not because he wants deeply personal revenge, but because he's got something to live for. Mostly, he doesn't want anyone fucking with his melons.
The quirky delight of MR. MAJESTYK is that you never know where it's going. Majestyk is so impulsive that at any time he can bring the movie in an unexpected new direction (because who really takes a siege on a prison bus as an opportunity to kidnap a mobster and trade him to the police?). The movie itself is so odd that it opens with a shot of Majestyk walking out of the men's room, and then fighting for the right of migrant workers' right to use the bathroom against a racist gas station attendant who doesn't want them taking baths in there. Yeah, it's a strange one.
Rednecks and mobsters - workin' together!
If Majestyk is unconventional, his enemies are, for the most part, pretty typical. Renda is a hot-headed mobster who doesn't care much for anyone other than himself and his slinky mistress. But he's so taken aback by Majestyk's kidnapping that, after it's botched and he's set free, he turns down the opportunity to flee to safer grounds in order to exact tortuous revenge on the simple melon farmer. Lettieri's performance is terrific, as the bad man is continuously - and somewhat comically - enraged by Majestyk's unwillingness to back down or cower in fear. The two make for an odd hero-villain combination, but that's another of the movie's wicked charms.
This is probably the best Bronson film I've ever seen (although of course the DEATH WISH movies, especially the third one, still hold a very special place in my heart). It's fast, funny, violent, twisted and just a little crazy. What more could you want?
TOP ACTION: A tire-squealing, shock-killing, car-rolling chase in the desert is the tops... although a scene in which a group of men with machine guns fire away at a mountain of melons is pretty exciting, too.
TOP DEATH: Majestyk is good with a shotgun, and he's not afraid to use it, so blowing bloody holes in a couple of baddies seems as natural as picking a melon to the man.
FEMALE EXPLOITATION: Majestyk sets his sights on a sexy migrant worker whom he wants handling more than just his melons, while Renda has a sultry moll at his side throughout. In other words, both men have ladies to go home to at night after they've tussled with one another for the day.
TOP DIALOGUE: The sexy migrant worker to a gas station attendant who is obviously lying about his bathroom being out of order: "Where do you go? Maybe you never do, that's why you're so full of shit!"
DRINKING GAME: Drink every time a melon appears on screen. You'll be drunkenly hiring a team of workers to do menial chores in your front yard by morning.
TRIVIA: Bronson's most infamous film, DEATH WISH, was released just one week after MR. MAJESTYK.
Some of director Richard Fleischer's other films include DOCTOR DOLITTLE (original), FANTASTIC VOYAGE and RED SONJA.