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  Murphy's Law Unlucky Day
Year: 1986
Director: J. Lee Thompson
Stars: Charles Bronson, Kathleen Wilhoite, Carrie Snodgress, Robert F. Lyons, Richard Romanus, Angel Tompkins, Bill Henderson, James Luisi, Clifford A. Pellow, Janet MacLachlan, Lawrence Tierney, Jerome Thor, Mischa Hausserman, Cal Haynes, Hans Howes
Genre: Action, ThrillerBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 2 votes)
Review: Cop Jack Murphy (Charles Bronson) may be beleaguered, but that doesn't stop him springing into action when the often perilous moment demands it. So it is when he is walking back to his car one night with a bag full of groceries and notices his vehicle being broken into by a teenage thief, Arabella (Kathleen Wilhoite), that Murphy yells in protest and starts chasing after his car. He hurls the groceries at the driver and draws his gun, but she is already heading off down the street. Still he pursues it, and is much dismayed to see his wheels crash through the window of a restaurant...

And that's not all the soul-destroying things that happen to Murphy, as when he apprehends the culprit, he ends up with a kick in the balls for his trouble, letting Arabella get away - but they will see each other again. Yet another of those Cannon Bronson movies, this was directed by J. Lee Thompson during a run of such films, a fruitful association between actor and director that may not have pleased the critics, but offered solid entertainment to the fans of the now-ageing star who reportedly pocketed a million dollar paycheque for each since there was a guaranteed audience for them, especially on home video. There was no getting away from the fact that the then-93-year-old Bronson was looking long in the tooth, but he was as capable as ever.

As if screenwriter Gail Morgan Hickman was feeling a bit patronising, we get one character, an organised crime lord whose brother has just murdered a woman, telling Murphy, and us in the audience, what Murphy's Law means. That is, if anything can go wrong, it will, but this gives our hero the chance to state his own version of the law: "Don't fuck with Jack Murphy." A bit more personal, that one, it went unmentioned in those Arthur Bloch paperbacks. Anyway, because he blows the sleazy brother away as the miscreant tries to escape at the airport, Murphy goes to the top of the gangster's hitlist.

However, he is about to be framed by someone who has nothing to do with the gangsters. Meanwhile, we see the cop drinking too much, feeling sorry for himself and generally not taking his current divorce too well, especially in light of the fact that his now-ex-wife (Angel Tompkins) is a stripper. As if that wasn't putting him in the doldrums enough, the ex and her new boyfriend are shot dead by someone making it look as if he was the killer, and he is duly arrested. It never rains but it pours: the actual villain is a mystery woman (Carrie Snodgress) whose motives we don't find out until the end (although they aren't particularly astonishing) yet play up Murphy's bad luck eventfully.

So it is that things are looking bleak for Murphy, so he does what anybody would do, he escapes police custody while chained to Arabella, who has also been caught. Though not exactly The 39 Steps, this does provide a measure of amusement mainly due to the imaginative variety of insults that she gets to spit out (Hickman must have been a devil at playground taunts if this film is anything to go by). Soon they are on the run, getting to like each other in a grudging fashion, and making what might have been a typically tough Bronson thriller look more like George Burns and Brooke Shields in Just You and Me, Kid. And although this should be cheesy, and maybe it is, Murphy's Law emerges as one of the more likeable of the star's thrillers. Yes there is the gratuitous violence, but there's a sense of humour too, rendering it less offensive than it might have otherwise been: the sparky Wilhoite helps a lot (and she sings the end credits song). Music by Marc Donahue and Valentine McCallum.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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J. Lee Thompson  (1914 - 2002)

Veteran British director frequently in Hollywood, usually with stories featuring an adventure or thriller slant. Among his many films, including a number of Charles Bronson movies, are capital punishment drama Yield to the Night, adventures Ice Cold in Alex and North West Frontier, the original Cape Fear, Tiger Bay, wartime epic The Guns of Navarone, What a Way To Go!, horror Eye of the Devil, Conquest of the Planet of the Apes, Battle for the Planet of the Apes and slasher Happy Birthday to Me.

 
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