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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
As a fan of Charles Bronson it pains me to have witnessed the disaster
that is "Messenger Of Death," a "movie" so insipid and poorly-made that
all existing prints should be destroyed for the good of mankind.
The movie seems to have been shot in seven days, with turgid acting, embarrassing direction, and a laughable script. The soundtrack works overtime trying to add dramatic tension to scenes of Bronson making small-talk, which makes up the bulk of the movie. No beats, no highs or lows, no plot, no characters, no action sequences, no suspense, no comedy, no adventure, nobody can do the BOOGALOO like I do! (Sorry, I got sidetracked.)
In conclusion, avoid this movie at all costs. It is a steaming pile of rhinoceros dung with no redeeming value whatsoever. You've been warned.
Messenger of Death makes a much better swansong for the pairing of Bronson and Thompson than their last collaboration, the dire Kinjite. The kind of film that would be a cable movie today and which didn't trouble movie theatres for long on its way to video back in 1988, there's nothing particularly special about it, but Bronson made so many bad movies near the end of his career that it's always a pleasure to come across a half-good one. In something of a throwback to his early TV series Man With a Camera, Bronson's a crime reporter (albeit a modern-day one) whose investigation of a brutal massacre of a family of Mormons soon uncovers two breakaway cults lead by brothers John Ireland and Jeff Corey whose vicious blood feud is being exploited by the local water company. There aren't many surprises, the performances veer from competent (Bronson, John Ireland) via misjudged (Daniel Benzali) and hammy (Laurence Luckenbill) to just plain over the top (Corey) and the rushed ending is pretty awful, but for the most part its well directed and just well crafted enough to pass an hour-and-a-half entertainingly enough.
After a massacre was committed on a family of Mormons, newspaper
reporter Garret Smith decides to dig a little deeper into the story, to
only find out that there might just be more to it then just two feuding
Another IMDb reviewer mentioned "Messenger of Death" is somewhat a change of pace for Bronson compared with his other efforts within this period, and definitely they got that right. Here it's a steely eyed Bronson doing a lot investigating and self-advertising his newspaper articles, than handing out much forcible punishment. Get ready for conversations and story development deluxe! Is more so a mystery set-up than action splurge. Actually don't fear, he gets 'some' hands on action.
This Cannon presentation can't seem to escape it's cheap, and almost TV movie quality. However this wasn't a huge fault, but the main one was it promised so much to only fizzle out. The opening atmospheric musical piece, established by haunting chants sets the mood and the beginning sequence is brutally eerie and unsparing with director J. Lee Thompson's stylish guidance. After this well-implanted beginning, what we get afterwards is mostly lacklustre and anti-climatic textbook fluff. Too bad it has to go to waste, as Thompson shows scope, ace pacing and strings along the set-pieces with a beautiful Colorado backdrop captured by fluent cinematography, but breaking it down has got to be that the story can get too causal and unintentionally comical. The revelation to what's happening just comes off feeble, and lacking. Thompson does invoke few terse spurts of suspense throughout the rest of the running time with a rather inventive brush, but this notable sequence involving two trucks loses out to the same-old, same-old pattern. Robert O. Ragland's airy, uncanny tremble that features heavily in his persistent instrumental score is really well pulled off. The religious aspect is there, but more so a stepping stool for the story to play out then share any real light on the topic. Even the money hungry and corrupt side of business corporations finds some similarities between the two, where Bronson's character becomes "the avenging angel". At least Charles Bronson makes for an appealing protagonist and he shows some colour in his calculated performance, and the support cast chip in with very solid and somewhat ripe turns. Passable Bronson venture.
The film has Charles Bronson in its favor, and is fairly well-made. It'a a little unbelievable, but fans of the genre or Bronson should enjoy it. Basically, Charles Bronson is an investigative reporter who investigates the slaying of a man's family, originally under the impression that the slaying was due to religious differences. One thing of minor note...it's not really a feud between different Mormon sects. The LDS Church has banned polygamy, in accordance with federal law, and excommunicates members who practice it. I suppose some might say that all the break-off groups(like the RLDS, FLDS and polygamist clans) can be considered part of a Mormon Religious Umbrella....but that would be kind of like saying members of the Russian Orthodox Church are really Catholic.
Messenger of Death opens with a pair of assassins murdering nine
members of a Mormon family, all of them wives and children of Charles
Dierkop. This piques the interest of Charles Bronson who is an
investigative reporter for the Denver Tribune. He goes out there to the
hinterlands of western Colorado to investigate and turns up some
interesting information. A Mormon blood feud might not be the reason
for the massacre, the motive shall we say might be more commercial.
Bronson's a reporter who carries a licensed weapon. Remember this is Colorado folks, a very red state where they take the right to bear arms seriously. He needs it going out where he's going.
This is some real rural area where some Mormons who never accepted the change regarding polygamy. The law of the land is rather tenuously enforced here, these folks make their own laws. John Ireland and Jeff Corey pay a pair of feuding Mormon brothers, these two have some real hate for each other, they make some of those Appalachin mountain people feuds like the Oxford debating society.
Bronson has two leading ladies with naught a hint of romance with either, in Denver Marilyn Hassett in the boonies, fellow newspaperperson Trish Van Devere. He and Van Devere nearly get themselves killed by some tractor trailers in a nicely staged car chase.
Look for good performances from Daniel Benzali as the ambitious Denver Police Chief and Laurence Luckinbill as the big mover and shaker in Denver politics.
It's a good film with a peek into a world few of the rest of us ever get to see.
'Avenging Angels' or as it is known as elsewhere ' Messenger of Death' is a modestly entertaining Charles Bronson film which goes to show that the over the hill legend still has what it takes, The superbly photographed eerie opening see's Wifes and children of the Mormon household become victims of a massacre. Bronson is Journalist Smith who is out to investigate the gruesome case and and finds out about economic motives behind the murders. Mrs George C.Scott 'Trish Van Devere' also stars as does western legend Jeff Corey as a seedy Patriarch. John Ireland also co-stars. all in all it is an entertaining and well made 'B' movie from J.Lee Thompson 'The Guns of Naverone' 'Cape Fear'
I'll watch anything with Charles Bronson, but this was definitely stretching things. Bronson is fine but the film is a mess, after a pretty solid start. Perhaps it was underbudgeted. Perhaps it was improperly edited. Who knows? I read here about the possibility of the director J. Lee Thompson falling ill, but somehow I suspect that rarely stops a movie from being finished -- by the second unit director, the director of photography and sometimes even the star. Anyhow, see it for Bronson and the first 10 minutes or so. I always like J. Lee Thompson, even when he was directing crap.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Well, this doesn't mitigate the sump that Charles Bronson found himself
in in the 1980s but at least it's a variation on his them of
hard-boiled avenger. Here, he's an investigative reporter for a Denver
newspaper. He only fires a gun once, and at an empty coffin. He gets to
beat hell out of a scowling would-be assassin -- twice -- but the blood
is minimal. He never wrenches off anyone's head with a wisecrack and
pees down the neck cavity. That has to be a variation, right? The story
is pretty simple. The women of a rural family in Colorado are
slaughtered along with half a dozen young children by mysterious
visitors. Bronson is on the case. The patriarch, luckily absent at the
time of the shootings, leads Bronson to an angry fundamentalist Mormon
of the John Brown type -- all bulging eyes, stentorian voice, and
over-sized gestures. That would be Jeff Corey. The massacred family was
part of Corey's flock. Corey blames his brother, a balding John
Ireland, who runs a huge farm nearby. Bronson intervenes when the two
feuding families begin to exchange shots but both Corey and Ireland are
offed -- not by their opposing clans but by outside snipers on a
distant hill. Something like that anyway. Who cares? It made no
difference to the screenwriter.
Those distant snipers, it turns out, represent the Colorado Water Company. Water is precious in them thar hills. There's plenty of water to drink but far more has to be shipped in at great expense to provide the six barrels of water that the shale company needs to produce one barrel of oil. Ireland's farm is sitting on top of a huge aquifer that would provide all the water for a pittance but Ireland has refused to sell. "This is our land. We live on it. It's our home," and so forth.
Well, you see, the Colorado Water Company WANTS that land of Ireland. To them, it's an emerald isle. So someone is trying to start a feud between Corey's clan and Ireland's clan in hopes that, with the land passing into other hands, the Colorado Water Company can buy it up.
But who's behind it all? Bronson, through his newspaper, knows some of Denver's elite, including the owners of the Water Company. You can tell they're the elite because, at parties, they wear tuxedos, sip champagne, and nibble canapés instead of wolfing down Rocky Mountain oysters after a shot and a beer. But, although the chief miscreants are somewhere among them, it's hard to tell just who they are. There's the ambitious Chief of Police running for mayor. There's Laurence Luckinbill as a good-natured pal of everybody. And there are the owners of Colorado Water, the husband who gave the company to his wife as a Christmas present, and the pretty wife who seems to know nothing about managing the company.
The film is more of a mystery than an action movie, and that's rather refreshing in itself. I mean, imagine, Bronson only slugging a snarling heavy twice and shooting a gun only once. Still there's a nifty scene of Bronson and his colleague, Trish Vandevere, almost being squashed between two eighteen-wheeled tankers. It's a familiar crisis though. I always find myself wondering why the driver of the car doesn't just stop his vehicle and let the two trucks keep going.
If you or I were to make a "Charles Bronson Movie", we might do it exactly the way that Golan/Globus did. You begin with a sloppy screenplay that ends with a ludicrous climax. And you hire a director and all the principal actors who are over the hill, just sitting around somewhere in Tonopah, Nevada, living off residuals. They don't have to act, anyway, just say their lines and move along. It doesn't matter if, like Charles Dierkop, the patriarch of the slaughtered family, you can hardly act at all. What difference does it make when you're given nothing but stilted lines that avoid contractions in order to sound some Biblical resonance -- "We did not ask you to come; we do not ask you to stay; it is the Lord's angels who will seek out vengeance." Mormons don't speak like that, not even the polygynous fundamentalists who lived in Short Creek, Arizona, fifty years ago. Nor do they call themselves "Mormons." That's a Gentile appellation. They are LDS to each other. On top of that, Mormon angels don't have wings, unlike those shown in this flick. I suppose the writers avoided setting the story in the location we'd have expected, Appalachia, because the stereotype had become too familiar. So they created a new set of stereotypes.
I was glad that the film gave Bronson a chance to wash the gunpowder residue off his hands and that we get to see some of Colorado's magnificently chilly scenery -- but what a sloppy job by all concerned.
Messenger of Death (1988) was a huge disappointment for a Cannon film
starring Charles Bronson. After making some very violent, sleazy and
exploitive fare for Cannon, this movie was a big let down for fans of
his eighties films. This was a boring and tedious movie. The direction
was lackadaisical and the actor was pedestrian and unmotivated. Bronson
looked extremely bored and was nearing the end of his acting career.
This film expiated his retirement. Too bad because this film could have
been a much better than what it turned out to be.
Charles Bronson had a good run during the early to mid eighties. It's a shame he couldn't have ended his career with a big bang instead of a boring movie and a few years later in a retread sequel to a dead film series. Fitting that his film career ended as Cannon films was dying as well.
Not recommended at all. Considering the talent in front and behind the camera.
Boy, this is a mess. This is one of those films that, on paper, look
like they have a lot going for them but, when they put it on the
screen, nothing meshes. There's a decent cast Bronson, van Devere,
Benzali, Ireland, Corey and an intriguing setting, but the plot is
fatally anaemic and the direction, considering it comes from an old
trooper like Thompson, is surprisingly shoddy. Much of the acting is
second-rate at best, while characters perform abrupt about turns for no
explicable reason. For instance, Orville Beecham (Charles Dierkop), a
clean-living Mormon farmer, is crazy for revenge after mysterious
intruders murder his wives and children and yet is full of forgiveness
after the rest of his family is wiped out in a gunfight.
The film opens well, with an atmospheric prologue in which two mysterious gunmen massacre the wives and children, although why the gunmen's identities are concealed is something of a mystery as they disappear for the next thirty minutes and are immediately confirmed as the killers when they re-appear. Anyway, from this neatly paced opener, the film goes rapidly downhill. Charles Bronson plays a Denver reporter who gets involved with the warring Mormon clans who go to war over the killings, and he's pretty bad here. He was 67 when the film was made, and he looks bloated and tired. On top of that, he's saddled with an awful script and a frankly ludicrous storyline which is a crime really because the unusual subject matter here deserves much better writing than that offered by 73-year-old writer Paul Jarrico. Director J. Lee Thompson manages a couple of effective scenes, and there is a good sequence in which two water tankers attempt to crush Bronson's vehicle on a winding country road, but for the most part his direction is flat and uninspired and the story simply fails to engage.
Bottom line: give this one a miss.
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