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As Charles Bronson reached his 70s, so his ability to perform as an action star waned. Producers got around this by teaming him up with extra characters, as in the 1993 TV movie DONATO AND DAUGHTER in which he played the titular role alongside his crime-fighting offspring. DEATH WISH V saw Bronson sharing screen time with a number of supporting actors who occupied great swathes of the running time. His career eventually evaporated with a whimper rather than a bang in a trilogy of cheap-looking TV movies made under the FAMILY OF COPS banner. This is the first of that trilogy, and the 74-year-old star is well past his prime.
FAMILY OF COPS commits that most grievous of cinematic crimes: it's boring. The viewer's interest never lifts once during the scant running time, and the blame can largely be laid on the dull plot, which mixes uninteresting family dynamics, police procedural thrills and a murder mystery in such a way that never reaps the benefits of any of those genres. Bronson plays the patriarch of a too-large family, where the guys are all cops and the women either wives, mothers or victims (there's never any characterisation beyond those staples).
Despite the presence of a number of familiar faces in the cast (Simon MacCorkindale as a murder victim, Daniel Baldwin as Bronson's unlikely son, DEATH WISH V's Lesley-Anne Down as a murder suspect and John Vernon as a gangster), the acting is never more than routine and the drama never forthcoming. There are a couple of half-hearted scenes of Bronson beating down crims, but this is a far cry from even his days as Cannon's number one action hero. Its TV-movie look and feel puts it more in line with those cheesy romance movies involving rich playboys which have dated the '90s so badly. Director Ted Kotcheff, who once made FIRST BLOOD, should know better.
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