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CHARLES BRONSON IN MICHAEL WINNER'S 'THE STONE KILLER'

Third Bronson Winner collaboration YEAR: 1973
Michael Winner's 1970's crime trilogy starring Charles Bronson made the tough guy actor as famous as Sergio Leone's Man With No Name trilogy put Clint Eastwood on the map... And the Bronson flicks are modern, asphalt Westerns about a hit man; a vigilante...

And between THE MECHANIC and DEATH WISH is the most obscure: centering on an unpopular, shoot-first cop the likes of... back to the Eastwood similarity... DIRTY HARRY himself, only Bronson's Lou Torry is more subdued and realistic since THE STONE KILLER is a visually-stylistic throwback/Neo Noir as our man dons a gumshoe trench coat; investigates a list of repeatedly-spoken culprit last names; and uses sparse, rat-a-tat dialogue with hardly any conversation lasting longer than it takes to move the story from one scene to the next; and there are plenty...

Charles Bronson kicks front in The Stone Killer
Which is good, always having something to center on, and bad since it gets a bit much after a while, and somewhat confusing as Bronson goes from New York to Los Angeles back to New York during the first ten-minutes: after he guns down an 17-year old Puerto Rican kid who, as Torrey says, yearned to be a "comic book hero," and then escorts a former mobster turned feeble junkie/heroin dealer, which doesn't work out in either one's favor...

Since every location looks urban and gritty, it takes concentration and several viewings to realize exactly where our man is on the map. He eventually settles mostly on the West Coast.  Although, back East, a sporadic b-story involves Martin Balsam planning a GODFATHER style massacre of all the head Mafia Dons...

RIP Paul Koslo runs for cover in The Stone Killer
Stuart Margolin commands the practice-run operation in the Arizona desert (where he'll also reside in DEATH WISH) while Torrey gathers a series of clues from random lowlifes in Los Angeles...

From future INCREDIBLE HULK reporter/investigator Jack Colvin, who rents cars for hit-men, to the same years' MR. MAJESTYK slimeball Paul Koslo as a cold-blooded bisexual trombone playing criminal, the latter provides one of the best action scenes, which THE STONE KILLER doesn't have much of: replaced with strategic bursts of Michael Winner style body-count violence while the creative camera glides and zooms in the energetic fashion of that decade, and is sometimes too obvious...

The Stone Killer RATES: ****
Like, for example, a hippie commune as laughably banal as the hippie shindig at Jan-Michael Vincent's house in THE MECHANIC: You can see the conservative viewer scoffing at the goofy counter culture generation, which is obviously the intention...

A Film Noir dressed 1970's cop
And there's John Ritter as a rookie cop appearing with two future workmates: THREE'S COMPANY landlord Norman Fell as Bronson's quiet middleman boss, and THE WALTONS Ralph Waite as a racist cop for Bronson to noticeably disagree with: cleansing an otherwise ultra-violent, politically-incorrect image...

Which is something that occurs from the very beginning: Torrey's initial killing is literally covered by the media that abhors his methods, and he then questions himself through a somewhat liberal perspective. So there's a lot more going on than your typical Bronson action flick... Sometimes too much...

But throughout the maze-like jigsaw investigated by L.A. Bronson and masterminded by New York Balsam while practiced by Arizona Margolin, it all eventually connects without being as convoluted as the piecemeal leading up to the main course. Basically, THE STONE KILLER, in all its frenetic chaos, ends up like an orchestra's surreal tuning morphed into a unique if dated and always entertaining crime film symphony. Speaking of which, the main theme is fantastic.
Charles Bronson in THE STONE KILLER
Charles Bronson in THE STONE KILLER
Charles Bronson in THE STONE KILLER
Charles Bronson in THE STONE KILLER
Charles Bronson in THE STONE KILLER with Norman Fell
Cover of most of the VHS back in the day
You wouldn't like Paul Koslo when he's angry, Jack Colvin
Stuart Margolin, Jack Colvin, Hunter von Leer and Paul Koslo in THE STONE KILLER
John Ritter says this guy's name "Lipper" six times of a dozen total while "a generation of Lippers" is uttered as well
Paul Koslo and Hunter von Leer in THE STONE KILLER
Charles Bronson being literally cool in THE STONE KILLER
Martin Balsam and Stuart Margolin in the important a-story's b-story in THE STONE KILLER
Two WALTONS actors Ralph Waite and John Ritter in THE STONE KILLER
Ralph Waite holds the gun to Paul Koslo in THE STONE KILLER
Mary Cross as a cute hippie girl waitress in THE STONE KILLER
Charles Bronson questions Kelley Miles in THE STONE KILLER
Kelley Miles in THE STONE KILLER
Never has an action film about cops have there been partners this tough: John Ritter in THE STONE KILLER
A Paul Koslo attempted getaway in THE STONE KILLER
A Paul Koslo killing in THE STONE KILLER rip Koslo
RIP Paul Koslo who'd be the Jack Colvin middleman character in Charles Bronson's Mr Majestyk the next year
"YOU do it all" Hunter Von Teer and Paul Koslo in THE STONE KILLER
Jack Colvin facing Charles Bronson in THE STONE KILLER interrogation room
Charles Bronson questions a hottie surrounded by a hackneyed hippie party in THE STONE KILLER
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