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Peter R. Hunt
Wifes and children of the Mormon Orville Beecham become victims of a massacre in his own house. The police believes the crime had a religious motive. Orville doesn't give any comment on the case, is taken into protective custody. Journalist Smith persuades him to help him in the investigation - and finds out about economic motives for the murder. Written by
Tom Zoerner <Tom.Zoerner@informatik.uni-erlangen.de>
Try and beat THIS for an opening sequence! Images of women amiably chatting and young children peacefully playing in the morning sun get barbarically interrupted when suddenly a shady figure holding a shotgun comes driving up to the house. Without speaking one word, the man unhesitatingly butchers the women (one pregnant one) before turning towards the children and shooting them too. The latter killings occur off screen but the footage is nonetheless shocking considering the madman's emotionless modus operandi. This bit of content represents the promising beginning of a compelling and highly suspenseful albeit flawed thriller starring the almighty Charles Bronson in an unconventional (at least, for him) role. Charlie depicts a journalist of the Denver newspaper who sinks his teeth into the circumstances surrounding the tragic massacre and stumbles upon a story bigger than he bargained for. The murders initially appear to be a dramatic consequence of a long-running vendetta between a separated family of Mormons, but our courageous reporter gradually uncovers a convoluted and inhumanly cruel conspiracy which concerns of course eminent politicians and wealthy businessmen. I honestly expected to find a slightly higher rating and more positive-toned reviews for "Messenger of Death" around here to be honest. Admittedly the evolution of the storyline is rather predictable and the eventual settlement is too tame, but the film definitely maintains a high tempo and a good number of sequences are very tense and literally action-packed. Charles Bronson tries his hardest to come across as a plausible journalist, but there are definitely some problems regarding his character. Bronson isn't exactly known as the most talkative actor in Hollywood; a trademark that usually fits his regular roles of mercenaries ("The Mechanic", "Violent City") and tormented avengers (the "Death Wish" franchise) very well. But even here his number of speeches and dialogs are kept to an absolute minimum, which isn't normal when you're a reporter. Moreover, in spite of his 'normal' job and life-style, he still wipes the floor with professional hit men and stunt-drives his way out of an assassination attempt! Since when do Denver journalists receive training in martial arts and defensive driving? The remote Colorado filming locations, as well as the largely unfamiliar traditions of Mormon families, add up to the ominous atmosphere but still director J. Lee Thompson ("Cape Fear", "The Guns of Navarone") doesn't use up the full potential of these terrific. "Messenger of Death" is an interesting film, to say the least, and it deserves a bit more appreciation from Bronson fanatics as well as fans of suspense films in general.
5 of 7 people found this review helpful.
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