Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Kino Lorber Studio Classics - STEELE JUSTICE and ASSASSINATION onBlu-ray ""

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Kino Lorber Studio Classics - STEELE JUSTICE and ASSASSINATION onBlu-ray

STEELE JUSTICE (1987; Robert Boris)
"He isn't being recruited. He's being unleashed."
The title for STEELE JUSTICE slams onscreen with a huge clank - like the sound of a heavy iron door banging shut. That's something I miss from movies now - sound effects like that that personify the main character in a way. In this case, John Steele is as tough as his name (and the signs of the credits) implies. His silhouette even firms the "I" in JUSTICE, which is another convention of 80s title treatments that I love. 
The movie opens with a flashback to Steele's final days as a soldier in Vietnam in 1975 (exhibiting his  anti-authoritarian nature). The next time we see him, in the present day, he's hauling for the Bureau of Wild Horse Management and getting himself fired for losing his temper. You see, Sterle's temper is always getting him in trouble. When he gets mad, he starts shooting or swinging or brings out his pet snake (named "3 Steps" after how long it takes to kill you after he's bitten) to menace people. But why would there ever be any call for him to get really angry? It's clear in a movie like this that pretty much anyone who is close to our hero will likely be killed in order to facilitate his vengeance. This is one of those "One Man Rampage of Revenge" movies. In the wake of the DEATH WISH, FIRST BLOOD and MISSING IN ACTION movies, there were a lot of lower-budgeted knockoffs. No the VHS rental era, STEELE JUSTICE was one of those vigilante films that stood a shot at getting watched by virtue of the fact that it was violent and starred the Sensei from THE KARATE KID. Martin Kove is a decent action lead, but the movie's biggest issue is that the actual rampage of revenge doesn't really get going until almost a full hour in. There's even a cheesy "80s music video being filmed" scene before the action stuff begins. When it does finally get going it has its moments though. And thankfully Kove has Bernie Casey and Ronny Cox to back him up.

Rock out to the closing theme song to STEEL JUSTICE here:

This is part of Bronson's later career that I have a good deal of familiarity with. When I was going through my Bronson phase (following my Eastwood and Chuck Norris phases) of VHS renting, I went for just about everything he did with Cannon Films in the 1980s. DEATH WISH III was and still is one of my very favorite movies, so I was always on the hunt for another one like that. Few of them lived up to that high standard, but Bronson always delivered perfectly Bronson-y performances and Cannon always delivered movies with some big action in the last third. ASSASSINATION is interesting, but slightly tamer than the Paul Kersey stuff, but the menu features Bronson with a rocket launcher, so you know it'll get nutty towards the back. Here, Bronson plays an aging Secret Service agent assigned to the new administrations First Lady. They clash as she doesn't appreciate being told what to do (in order to stay safe), but eventually she comes around to Bronson's charms and his dedication to the job. What's interesting and kinda creepy about these later, salt and pepper haired Bronson films is the fact that they always felt the need to make him have a younger gal interested in him sexually. This is especially off because he's starting in the movie with his then wife (and love of his life) Jill Ireland. Thankfully, more time is spent on blowing things up than on pervy romantic subplots (as should be the case with all Cannon Films productions). Think of this movie as Cannon's version of GUARDING TESS, but before GUARDING TESS (and not a comedy). While it's not Bronson and Ireland's best work, it is always nice to see them work together. It's been said that a lot of Bronson's latter-day work was done to help provide for Ireland's sickness (she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1984). ASSASSINATION was the last film they would do together before her death in 1990.
This film also has the extra cache of having been directed by Peter Hunt who worked as an editor on Bond movies like DR. NO, GOLDFINGER and FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE and also for directing ON HER MAJESTY'S SECRET SERVICE. He also had worked with Bronson a few years earlier in the classic film DEATH HUNT with he and Lee Marvin. 

In this 1993 interview, Bronson reflects on his wife after her passing:

1 comment:

SteveQ said...

Steele Justice still has one of the all-time great scenes, when the hero cauterizes his wound with a hot frying pan. I have rarely laughed so hard as when I first saw that.