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  Stone Killer, The Are You Saying I Look Like A Gorilla?
Year: 1973
Director: Michael Winner
Stars: Charles Bronson, Martin Balsam, Jack Colvin, Paul Koslo, Norman Fell, David Sheiner, Stuart Margolin, Ralph Waite, Alfred Ryder, Walter Burke, Kelley Miles, Eddie Firestone, Charles Tyner, Byron Morrow, Lisabeth Hush, Frank Campanella, John Ritter
Genre: Action, ThrillerBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: Detective Lou Torrey (Charles Bronson) is a tough guy cop who shoots first and asks questions later. Today he arrives at the scene of a crime which has seen a young punk attack and wound a police officer. With little regard for his own safety, Torrey charges into the building where the criminal is hiding and chases him up the stairs, dodging bullets until he corners him in an empty room. The would-be killer jumps out of the window and onto the fire escape but he is followed by the cop who wastes no time in gunning him down before he can do the same to him. Perhaps it's time for a transfer to Los Angeles...

Not that things are any quieter there. Before Michael Winner and Bronson had a huge hit with Death Wish, they teamed up for this adaptation of a John Gardner novel (Gardner was the man who wrote the James Bond books after Ian Fleming died). Hard hitting crime thrillers were ten a penny after Dirty Harry popularised the genre in the early seventies, and the clichés were present and correct here in Gerald Wilson's script, embodied by Bronson's Torrey. However, there was a difference: instead of wiping the scum off the streets, it was organised crime causing the problems.

Not that the police here get off lightly, depicted as racist, corrupt and out of their depth when it came to fighting the crime wave. Torrey is all too aware of their shortcomings, and the clashes we see with the cultures of the day are the most effective parts of the film. On the other hand, this merely backs up the overriding theme that the best way to deal with the criminal fraternity is to exterminate them, preferably by blowing them away with a handgun before they can be arrested, never mind stand trial. Thus are the fantasies of nineteen-seventies justice through violence doled out.

Almost simultaneously with his arrival, Torrey finds himself embroiled with what seems to be the motiveless killing of two petty criminals, one of whom he was escorting. Of course there's more to this than meets the eye, and the detective is like a pitbull gnawing at a bone, refusing to let go until he has the mess sorted out. One misstep in the story is that instead of being a mystery, we find out too early that there is a massacre of Mafia bosses being planned as revenge for a long-forgotten killing of forty years before. The man at the head of this upcoming crime is played by second-billed Martin Balsam who never shares a scene with Bronson; even at the end they never meet although Torrey is watching him.

Worth watching for is the depiction of the communities that Torrey has to mix with to solve the case. Well, I say solve the case, he and his cohorts only turn up after the crime has been committed to pick off the bad guys in an over the top shootout. Anyway, nobody is pleased to see the police, be they the African Americans or the hippies (the scene where Bronson has to mix with the dancing freaks is highly amusing), and the homosexuals and Vietnam War veterans are treated with similar suspicion by the law. So who are the cops making the streets safe for?, you may well wonder. By the tone of Bronson's speech at the end, we should all be criminals by now, but we're not the ones conducting absurdly destructive car chases, are we Chuck? Although we'd be disappointed if you didn't. Groovy music by Roy Budd.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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Michael Winner  (1935 - 2013)

Opinionated British producer-director whose early comedies - You Must Be Joking, The Jokers, I'll Never Forget Whatsisname - were promising enough, but come the seventies he had settled into a pattern of overblown thrillers.

Of these, Death Wish was a huge hit, and Winner directed two similar sequels. Other films included horrors (The Nightcomers, The Sentinel), Westerns (Lawman, Chato's Land), thrillers (Scorpio, Dirty Weekend) and disastrous comedies (Bullseye!). Also a restaurant critic.

 
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