April 5th, 2008

VIOLENT CITY (1973) **

Charles Bronson stars as an independent hitman in this lethargic Italian lensed crime flick.  In the opening scene, Bronson gets chased in his Mustang along the narrow streets of the Virgin Islands before being shot TWICE and nearly getting himself blown up, but he still somehow manages to survive.  He goes to jail for blowing away his attackers but gets off using the old self defense routine and quickly goes back to the business of killing folk.  After assassinating an old dude on a yacht and a race car driver (while he’s still on the track no less) Bronson learns that he had been set-up by his girlfriend (Bronson’s real life wife and frequent co-star Jill Ireland), who also happens to be crime boss Telly Savalas’ old lady.  Even though she almost got him killed, Bronson still loves her and shows it by banging her on a bag of flour.  Then Savalas pays Bronson off to kill her, but Chuck decides to blow away Kojack instead.  When Bronson learns that she’s been playing him like a fiddle the whole time, he shoots her and her scummy boyfriend before getting mowed down by the cops. 


Violent City will have enough merits for die hard Bronson fans, but for the most part, it’s pretty bad.  The flick moseys along at a listless pace and things get downright boring whenever Chuck isn’t Lee Harvey Oswalding people to death.  Consider the scene where he assassinates the race car driver.  Sure the guy ends up turning into a ball of fire and crashing through a brick wall, but it takes FOREVER for Bronson to pull the goddamn trigger.  Director Sergio Sollima pads out the scene mercilessly with endless shots of Bronson putting his rifle together before finally shooting it.  It’s not suspenseful in the least and really drains the momentum out of the scene. 


Bronson’s laconic performance is easily the best thing the movie has going for it.  Like most Bronson movies, he speaks with a limited vocabulary (it takes him ten whole minutes before he says ANYTHING), but for the most part, he lets his sniper rifle do most of the talking.  Savalas (who also co-starred in The Dirty Dozen with Chuck) is fun to watch but Ireland is merely okay as the bland love interest.  At least Chuck allowed her to show off a little skin in this one. 


The car chase that opens things up is quite exciting, but action wise, there is nothing else in the film that even comes close to matching it.  The snappy score by Ennio (A Fistful of Dollars) Morricone helps a lot, but in the end, this is just another middling pre-Death Wish Chuck vehicle.  


AKA:  The Family.



The Exterminator is bar none, flat out, without a doubt Robert Ginty’s finest 101 minutes. 


It tells the story of John Eastland (Ginty), a Vietnam vet who works on the docks of New York in the meat packing district.  When he was in Nam, he saw some seriously fucked up shit like a dude getting his head cut off, but not cut off ALL THE WAY as the head kinda hung there from an itty bitty piece of neck skin.  This left an impression on him.  So when his Nam vet buddy (Steve James from the American Ninja flicks) gets paralyzed in a brutal assault (they stick a three pronged garden hoe into his spine and twist it around real good) by a vicious gang known as The Ghetto Ghouls, Eastland snaps, grabs his blowtorch and starts roughing up anybody wearing a gang color.  First bunch he finds, he ties them up and lets some rats chew their faces off.  Other gangbangers get blown away or end up flame-broiled in their cars.  Then he sends a letter to the press, calling himself “The Exterminator” and lets everybody know that he’ll be blowing away the scum of New York City for the next 90 minutes or so. 


Next, he targets the Mafia boss (who has a weird comic strip fetish) that runs the docks and extorts money from him so his pal’s wife and kids can eat for the next 100 years or so.  He ties the Guido up and dangles him above an industrial meat grinder and asks him the combination of his safe.  The mobster tells him and Exterminator asks, “Is there anything else I should know?”  The dude says nope, and away Exterminator goes to collect his friend’s future pension fund.  BUT the mobster didn’t tell Exterminator about his bloodthirsty guard dog and after he Old Yellers the dog to death with an electric knife; Exterminator comes back and drops the mob boss into the industrial meat grinder, turning him into Hamburger Helper.  Minus the Helper. 


Then cop Christopher (Pieces) George tries to romance Dr. Samantha (The Brood) Eggar by taking her to jazz concerts and banging her in a hospital bed while simultaneously trying to bring The Exterminator to justice.  We also learn that the Feds are after him too because “it’s an election year” and they don’t want Exterminator to rock the boat or the vote. 


One night Exterminator picks up a hooker and she shows him her mutilated ta-tas.  He asks how come her tits look like Beef Jerky and she says that some “Chicken Farmers” (READ:  Child Molesters!) wanted her to participate in one of their sick orgies and she said no way (She clearly does not do Neverland Ranch Specials.) so they went to town on her melons with a soldering iron.  Exterminator says, “No one will ever hurt you again!” 


I guess you know what happens next.  Sure you do.  Exterminator starts BBQing perverts and shooting child molesters in the groin with mercury laced bullets.  Too bad the FBI gets wind of Exterminator’s activities and shoots a hole through both him and Christopher George.  Luckily for the American viewing public, Exterminator was wearing a bulletproof vest, effectively setting the stage for Exterminator 2.  


Ginty is superb in the lead role.  He definitely does not look, act or sound like a movie star, but that’s his strength.  He looks like a regular guy which makes his transformation from disgruntled Nam Vet to Chuck Bronson Jr. wholly believable.  Who else could deliver lines like “That n----- was my best friend, you motherfucker!” with such impassioned conviction?  George and Eggar are good in their roles, but their characters are completely unnecessary to the plot and only serve as a break in the action to give the audience a chance to catch their breath (or take a leak) after all the mayhem and nastiness director James (Shakedown) Glickenhaus reigns down upon them.  The film also provides a loving time capsule of New York’s 42nd Street, which at the time was the sleaze capital of the world. 


Of all the Death Wish rip-offs out there, this one is the best.  Even the most jaded of exploitation fans’ jaws will drop on this one (especially during the “chicken” sequences).  The effects are awesome and the decapitation that opens the film is one of the best you’ll ever see on the silver screen.  It should be duly noted however that despite the movie poster, The Exterminator does NOT kill anybody with his trusty flamethrower in this movie.  That had to wait until Exterminator 2, (also with Ginty) which came out four years later.