“The Stone Killer” (1973)
Discontent to assure audiences of a visceral thrill ride by the mere mention in the opening credits of Michael Winner assuming the directorial antics, “The Stone Killer” begins with a scene showing Charles Bronson’s tough guy police detective casually tossing his hat into the cruiser, climbing a staircase under gunfire and blasting the armed perp on a fire escape, just to let you know that he and the film mean to waste no time in getting down to dirty (Harry) business.
That this opening incident is entirely unrelated to anything within the rest of the picture seems to have not occurred to anyone intimately involved in the production, which may explain some of the other, more critical oversights: for instance, that the plot makes little to no sense or that every character is conceived and portrayed as such broad archetypal stereotypes that a cataract-afflicted amateur with no law enforcement experience could spot the bad guys from ten blocks away without the use of spectacles. Paul Koslo’s shockingly coiffed killer is a Broadway neon sign screaming “PSYCHO LOON”, a fact that fails to dissuade Bronson’s detective arresting and manhandling all of the wrong people until he clumsily bungles the simple arrest of the genuine perpetrator, leading to a spectacularly destructive chase sequence in which the safety of the citizens of Los Angeles seems less important than Bronson’s Lou Torrey engaging in an act of behavioral overreach which is suggested (only momentarily and then immediately forgotten) as a hint of a deeper psychological rage born of his intolerance for the criminal element.
Source of all of the police procedural fuss is a plot in which Sicilian Mafia bigwig Al Vescari (Martin Balsam, affecting the most cartoonish Italian accent since the days of Lucy Ricardo stomping in the wine vats of Parma) plans the unexplainably delayed (42 years) revenge for “The Night of Sicilian Vespers”, a massacre Mafioso Dons by rival career climbers. Vescari’s plan involves the use of veteran soldiers outside of “the organization”, know under the designation of “stone killer”.
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