Richard Fleischer’s 1974 action-crime movie, Mr. Majestyk, tells of a man who is up against all odds when a hitman and organized crime target him, but his instinct and tenacity help him stay level-headed and confront his foes. The movie features fun action sequences, strong writing, and great acting. If you are looking for a good action movie, especially one from the 1970s, you will not want to miss Mr. Majestyk.
The movie’s story centers on Vince Majestyk, a Vietnam War veteran and ex-Ranger instructor who has adopted a more peaceful lifestyle. Majestyk is now a melon farm owner in Colorado and he likes to help the Latino community by hiring them to work on his fields. Other farmers believe that Majestyk’s choices are actively impeding white workers from getting jobs and do not like Majestyk’s methods.
Several pugnacious individuals confront Majestyk which results in Majestyk’s arrest. Since his Vietnam service, the farm owner has had a few run-ins with the law, but he is doing his best to live a law-abiding life. His situation and life are complicated when he realizes Frank Renda, a notorious mob hit man, is being held in the same jail. Renda’s cronies attempt to liberate the killer from a prison transport, but when their operation does not go as planned Majestyk tries to put Renda back in jail. Unfortunately, he is unsuccessful and Renda is freed. Yet Renda becomes obsessed with Majestyk and will not rest until he kills Majestyk.
Mr. Majestyk’s pacing is good. The film does a great job of providing context with Majestyk and his arrest. Additionally, the introduction of Renda is handled well and is presented quite organically in terms of the narrative. As the plot develops with Renda’s bloodlust, the pace accelerates appropriately.
The tone is at once suspenseful and action-filled. When Renda and his crew start their hunt for Majestyk, viewers really feel engulfed in Majestyk’s seemingly hopeless situation. Mr. Majestyk’s fingerprint is evident in several modern films, including: First Blood, John Wick, and The Equalizer. The relationship binding these films are distinct elements, such as an action resulting in deadly consequences and focusing on one outnumbered man facing a group of enemies. The sentiment in First Blood with the way in which the police relentlessly pursue Rambo is very apparent in Mr. Majestyk. The entire situation could have been prevented if First Blood’s law enforcement did not become obsessed with Rambo and the same principle is seen in Mr. Majestyk with the Majestyk-Renda relationship. The same notion is also central to the plots in John Wick and The Equalizer. Then again, if the villains would have acted differently, these movies would not exist in their current form, or potentially at all.
Mr. Majestyk boasts strong performances. Charles Bronson’s titular character, Vince Majestyk, convincingly depicts the veteran’s attempt to be law-abiding citizen. Viewers can really see Majestyk’s struggle to overcome the baiting actions of others. Moreover, once Majestyk goes on the offensive, in light of Renda’s determination to kill him, you can really see Bronson having fun with the role.
Al Lettieri’s Frank Renda is well acted. Lettieri does a great job at communicating Renda’s illogical pursuit of killing Majestyk. Renda is an excellent case study of villains whose own grudges set them on a spiraling path that often do not end well. Renda’s stylish and deadly demeanor is a hallmark of Lettieri’s performance.
Additionally, Linda Cristal’s Nancy Chavez and Paul Koslo’s Bobby Kopas are well done. Nancy’s nuances, loyalty, and straightforward behavior make her character unique. Some of her blunt dialogue seems a bit grating, but it blends with the fact that Nancy is not a cookie cutter-styled character. Koslo provides a good portrayal of Kopas’ obnoxious and vexing behavior. It complements the story and provides nice juxtaposition and a third element compared to the traits of both Majestyk and Renda.
Richard H. Kline’s cinematography is respectable. He has some great shots that accentuate the subjects and lighting in his compositions. There is one sequence with a truck that was a bit unrealistic in that a character in an open truck bed was miraculously not ejected when the vehicle was off-roading. This portion could have benefited from more polish. Nevertheless, a chase sequence in the third act, the same sequence actually, is very enjoyable as it greatly improves as it develops. The setting and style of it are well done. It is not merely a fast-paced sequence, but is more tactful and reflects the cat-and-mouse nature of the pursuit. There is a great depth of field shot in the sequence that underscores the creative use of light and shadow, making Kline’s cinematography noticeable in a positive way.
Charles Bernstein’s musical compositions effectively encapsulate Mr. Majestyk’s 1970s-styled suspenseful tone. Emotional elements in the story are also neatly complimented by the music. Compositions that feature a trumpet solo reflects Majestyk’s supposed secluded lifestyle. Thick bass mixed with guitar “wah” effects and nice keys help round out the film’s music.
Richard Fleischer’s direction of Mr. Majestyk is great. The way he is able to communicate the story and extract important emotions and character nuances from the actors result in an enjoyable final product. Moreover, Mr. Majestyk is a nice addition to Fleischer’s diverse directorial repertoire.
In the end, Mr. Majestyk is a great 1970s-styles action film. The characters are interesting and the film’s influence, whether intentionally or unwittingly, can be seen in subsequent films. If you are looking for an impressive action flick, you cannot go wrong with the underrated Mr. Majestyk.
Distributor: United Artists
Production: The Mirisch Corporation
Director: Richard Fleischer
Producer: Walter Mirisch
Screenwriter: Elmore Leonard
Director of Photography: Richard H. Kline
Editor: Ralph E. Winters
Production Manager: Jim Henderling
Music: Charles Bernstein
Costume Designer: Paula Lynn Kaatz (costumes: ladies); James Linn (costumes: men)
Release Date: July 17, 1974 (USA)
Cinematographic Process: Spherical
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Copyright Holder: Mirisch Corporation of California
Cast: Charles Bronson; Al Lettieri; Linda Cristal; Lee Purcell; Paul Koslo; Taylor Lacher; Frank Maxwell; Alejandro Rey; Jordan Rhodes; Bert Santos
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Rating: PG; Descriptors: N/A
Running Time: 1 hour and 43 minutes (103 mins.)