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Where is Charles Bronson When We Need Him Most?

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Where is Charles Bronson When We Need Him Most?

Old 02-24-12, 01:40 PM
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Where is Charles Bronson When We Need Him Most?

From Bad Ass Digest:

When Charles Bronson died in 2003, I walked out my front door, wandered to a city park, sat on a rusty swing and cried for the first time in eight years. It was a ridiculous and very sincere moment. Though I’d never met him (and he surely would’ve thought I was a sissy for crying), he was my favorite actor. More importantly, he was my hero.

It’s probably downright pathetic that I’d be emotionally impacted by the passing of a complete stranger, and even worse, a celebrity. But Bronson wasn’t a Hollywood figure to me, or even a human. He represented an entire era of entertainers – and men – that were irretrievably vanishing from the earth. Though he was never accused of being a multi-faceted performer, he was so powerfully authentic that his presence was unforgettable.

He was a second generation blue-collar Polish-American coal miner from the middle of nowhere, who’d fought his way to the coast and carved out a career in an industry that had no use for guys like him (he once stated: “My face looks like a rock quarry that’s been dynamited”). Patience, perseverance and a name change from “Buchinsky” to “Bronson” found him moving from lunkhead bit parts in the ‘50s to key supporting roles in the ‘60s to household-name superstardom in the ‘70s.

As his profile reached its apex, Bronson became synonymous with big screen masculinity. He was a rare example of an instant icon; Hollywood producers in the mid-‘70s would allegedly refer to action scripts as “Bronson pictures.” People have dropped casual references to him for generations, and will continue to do so long after his individual movies have gathered dust. A notorious British felon adopted his name and re-immortalized it. Bronson’s concrete features are as recognizable as any handsome leading man’s of the past. He was one of the few actors to become his own genre, and eventually a deity of pure testosterone that still casts an immeasurable shadow over the male half of our species.

But he was still a human. Other two-fisted mortal gods like Lee Marvin and Steve McQueen had fallen before him, and it was naturally inevitable that he’d join their ranks. But when he did, there was more than a sense of loss. There was a gaping vortex, one that had been forming for years but we hadn’t noticed until we were faced with the closing chapter of his legacy. An era of film had died with him, its replacement a decreasingly convincing, semi-digitized, emasculated stew of Stathams, Diesels and Carnahans.

That last blow is of course inspired by Joe Carnahan’s plans to helm a Death Wish remake. I know I’m not alone in my depression over the industry’s countless “reimaginings,” but this particular flub strikes me as particularly crass. Death Wish was THE movie that cemented Bronson’s success with U.S. audiences, and Bronson IS its lead character Paul Kersey, permanently and eternally. No matter who they hire to fill his shoes, it’s like attempting to remake Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure with Russell Brand in the title role.

Carnahan maintains that the film isn’t intended to ape the 1974 vigilante masterpiece, but is instead based on Brian Garfield’s original novel. I’ve read the novel more than once, and all the best segments in it were translated to the screen perfectly by Bronson and director Michael Winner. The movie stuck close to its excellent source material and used it to the best conceivable effect. I can’t imagine what other content they’d mine from it that would compete with the existing movie that’s already the Casablanca of action films.

That being said, it’s not even my favorite Bronson feature. 1972’s The Mechanic is a lean, heartless character study of a master assassin, perfectly paced and underwritten (not a single word is spoken until after the 15 minute mark). Even though it co-stars the often-mocked Jan-Michael Vincent, the film is an untouchable achievement…that was recently mutilated by action leech Jason Statham and aesthetic toddler Simon West. And I can’t imagine that the major studio corpse-fuckers are likely to treat Death Wish with any more respect.

Sour grapes aside, I’d be overjoyed if someone actually could make a modern masculine film as effective as one of the great Bronson movies. I’ve been lucky enough to watch some very worthy contenders, like William Lustig’s 1983 gut-puncher Vigilante and recent Australian indie The Horseman. These are two incredible vengeance films, rich with the specific brand of justice-fueled rage that Bronson popularized. But neither is audacious and/or stupid enough to pretend to be a Bronson movie. Nor did either one come from the studio system. If someone is going to match the intensity and power of Bronson’s ‘70s films, it’s not going to be Carnahan and one of his Beverly Hills buddies, be it Liam Neeson or Frank Grillo or any of today’s crop of JC Penney models-turned-action stars who practice poolside yoga after a vegan breakfast.

Charles Bronson avoided the spotlight. He lived on a secluded ranch in the mountains where he split his own firewood and raised his own children. He drove his own car and always insisted that he pay full price at stores and restaurants. He was a Real Man. He was also the only real Charles Bronson that will ever exist. It’s no surprise when Hollywood check-cashers like Carnahan wipe their asses on our most beloved movies, but some things must remain sacred. If Charles Bronson were alive today, I firmly hope he’d take a coach flight to Hollywood, load a few dozen shotguns and take care of business.

***************************************************************

I know many will say this guy is glorifying a one-note actor, but I can't argue against him a lick because Bronson is my favorite actor. I will watch anything he is in, no question.

I think the more important point to draw from this is that Hollywood doesn't have any real MEN working anymore. Bronson would have chunks of guys like Statham in his stool before enjoying his morning coffee. I can name plenty of "action stars" working today, but Bronson was truly in a class all his own.
Old 02-24-12, 03:32 PM
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Re: Where is Charles Bronson When We Need Him Most?

While not my favorite actor he definitely was a bad ass and there isn't anyone else like him these days.

My favorite Bronson story was told by Ebert. Apparently Bronson and Ingmar Bergman had the same agent or at least Bergman's agent in America was the same guy who handled Bronson. Anyway, one day Bergman visited the set of one of Bronson's films and was fascinated by all the prop guns and special effects blood squibs and the like. Bronson's question to Bergman: "What, don't you have this kind of stuff in your films?"

Great story. It's funny on the surface because of Bronson's naiveté, but when you think about it Bergman did make some films that dealt with rape/revenge and his films often contained horrendous violence but it was handled quit differently than in say Death Wish II. Anyway, love that story.
Old 02-24-12, 03:41 PM
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Re: Where is Charles Bronson When We Need Him Most?

....hahaha. Awesome story.
Old 02-24-12, 04:10 PM
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Re: Where is Charles Bronson When We Need Him Most?

I'm guessing that most here didn't see them, but Bronson's last 3 movies were the CBS TV movies "Family of Cops" He was up there in age when they were made in the late 90's, but I wish CBS would have developed that into a weekly TV series. His character was pretty badass. I would have loved to have seen Charles Bronson on TV weekly.

Yes, I do miss Bronson. I loved all his cheesy Cannon action films from the 80's. My favorite was 10 to Midnight.

Last edited by DJariya; 02-24-12 at 04:20 PM.
Old 02-24-12, 04:39 PM
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Re: Where is Charles Bronson When We Need Him Most?

I never caught Family of Cops, but I know they're out on DVD. Didn't Ted Kotcheff do the first one? I need to pick them up.

FWIW my favorite Bronson film is either Hard Times or Death Wish III.
Old 02-24-12, 04:48 PM
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Re: Where is Charles Bronson When We Need Him Most?

Yes, he directed the 1st one.

The DVDs are really cheap. You can probably pick all 3 up for under $20.
Old 02-24-12, 05:25 PM
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Re: Where is Charles Bronson When We Need Him Most?

I know it wasn't a starring role but I'll always remember him as Danny "The Tunnel King" in the Great Escape.
Old 02-24-12, 05:49 PM
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Re: Where is Charles Bronson When We Need Him Most?

I like Bronson as much as the next film geek, but "Death Wish" was anything BUT "the Casablanca of action films".
Old 02-24-12, 06:19 PM
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Re: Where is Charles Bronson When We Need Him Most?

According to James Garner's autobiography, Bronson was a petty bully.
Old 02-24-12, 06:54 PM
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Re: Where is Charles Bronson When We Need Him Most?

Yeah I never liked him.
Old 02-24-12, 07:09 PM
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Re: Where is Charles Bronson When We Need Him Most?

Which begs the question, what WOULD "The Casablanca of Action Movies" be?

If we mean, some B-movie with zero expectations that came out of nowhere to become a genre-definer... Die Hard?
Old 02-24-12, 07:34 PM
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Re: Where is Charles Bronson When We Need Him Most?

The only reason I have any appreciation for Bronson is the one-note character that sounds just like him in The Simpsons. I still crack up every time I see the episode when they go to the fictional Bronson, MO.

I watched Death Wish and Death Wish II for the first time over the holidays and they were enjoyable romps. I don't know how much of a badass I'd classify him as though.
Old 02-24-12, 07:42 PM
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Re: Where is Charles Bronson When We Need Him Most?

Bronson was in his late 50's and 60's when he became a cult B action hero.

Pull up any of his 1980's Cannon Films catalogue. He was a average looking older man with few words, who pulled the trigger 1st and asked questions later. He's the epitome of badass (Senior Citizen) action hero.

All his movies made money because they were relatively low budget. No special effects, fancy explosions, just Bronson pulling the trigger and kicking ass.
Old 02-24-12, 07:50 PM
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Re: Where is Charles Bronson When We Need Him Most?

Originally Posted by Mabuse
... Great story. It's funny on the surface because of Bronson's naiveté...
I agree that's a great story but, for some reason, I doubt Bronson was being naive.

Maybe it's because most male action stars (like female sex symbols) tend to be stereotyped... big and dumb (or blond and dumb, respectively). I think they're conflated with the type of characters they often portray, but are actually much more intelligent than most people think.
Old 02-24-12, 08:01 PM
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Re: Where is Charles Bronson When We Need Him Most?

Originally Posted by Hokeyboy
Which begs the question, what WOULD "The Casablanca of Action Movies" be?

If we mean, some B-movie with zero expectations that came out of nowhere to become a genre-definer... Die Hard?
Maybe Hollywood could remake Casablanca into an action movie. It has Nazis so bad guys already in place.
Old 02-24-12, 08:05 PM
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Re: Where is Charles Bronson When We Need Him Most?

The most amazing Bronson flick ever was Kinjite: Forbidden Subjects.

I only remember two things about that movie. The first was this OUTSTANDING song the two cheerleaders sing that infected my head in the late 80s and never left:

<iframe width="420" height="315" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/RIrxaW3P_d4" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>

The second was almost directly afterward, when the creepy Japanese guy on the bus gets a swab of the young blonde's early morning dew with his fingers. She also happens to be Bronson's daughter. Her response to this traumatic incident is beyond words:

<iframe width="420" height="315" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/WVkJ_9pujt8" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>

Cannon Films. If you didn't grow up with them, you'll never understand why they are holiest of holies.
Old 02-24-12, 08:05 PM
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Re: Where is Charles Bronson When We Need Him Most?

Originally Posted by Jon2
I agree that's a great story but, for some reason, I doubt Bronson was being naive.

Maybe it's because most male action stars (like female sex symbols) tend to be stereotyped... big and dumb (or blond and dumb, respectively). I think they're conflated with the type of characters they often portray, but are actually much more intelligent than most people think.
Actually, I've heard that he wasn't keen on doing interviews or mingling with other actors because he lacked a formal education and thus wasn't as intellectual. It bothered him throughout his life.
Old 02-24-12, 11:00 PM
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Re: Where is Charles Bronson When We Need Him Most?

I love Charles Bronson and his work.

Grew up watching many of his movies, great unique actor.
Old 02-25-12, 09:40 AM
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Re: Where is Charles Bronson When We Need Him Most?

Originally Posted by resinrats
Maybe Hollywood could remake Casablanca into an action movie. It has Nazis so bad guys already in place.
In case you didn't know Bronson sort of remade it with Cabo Blanco.

Yea love Bronson as well. Him and Kurt Russell are my favorite actors...

Old 02-25-12, 09:46 AM
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Re: Where is Charles Bronson When We Need Him Most?

Originally Posted by Hokeyboy

Cannon Films. If you didn't grow up with them, you'll never understand why they are holiest of holies.
Amen
Old 02-25-12, 10:06 AM
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Re: Where is Charles Bronson When We Need Him Most?

Once Upon A Time In The West! The Dirty Dozen!
Old 02-25-12, 04:35 PM
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Re: Where is Charles Bronson When We Need Him Most?

Originally Posted by d2cheer
Him and Kurt Russell are my favorite actors...

Same here. Along with Lee Marvin and Robert Mitchum. Bronsan interviews are very rare. The Telefon DVD has a little behind the scenes stuff. He agreed to talk to Entertainment Tonight once about one of his latter TV movies. Saw him on Johnny Carson once in the 70s. His persona is exactly like that in his movies.
Old 02-25-12, 09:46 PM
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Re: Where is Charles Bronson When We Need Him Most?

"You mean you don't use machine guns in your movies?"

-- Charles Bronson to Igmar Bergman.

Definitely one of my favorite film lore stories.
Old 02-26-12, 12:06 AM
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Re: Where is Charles Bronson When We Need Him Most?

Originally Posted by KillerCannibal
Actually, I've heard that he wasn't keen on doing interviews or mingling with other actors because he lacked a formal education and thus wasn't as intellectual. It bothered him throughout his life.
I never heard that about Bronson... it could well be. However, lack of an education doesn't make one stupid, nor does an education make one intellectual or intelligent. My point, that many actors are more intelligent than they are give credit for, still stands.
Old 02-26-12, 02:10 AM
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Re: Where is Charles Bronson When We Need Him Most?

Well, Bronson did graduate from high school. He also didn't learn to speak English until he was a teenager and worked in the coal mines of the Allegheny Mountains until he went into the service during WWII.

Used to love Charles Bronson. Long before the days of The Interwebs and the IMDB, I kept a Bronson file. I wrote his movies on index cards, with cast members, year, director, screenwriter, and my own rating. I had a collection of book versions of his movies. Hell, I even bought the Death Wish II soundtrack.

Back when there were still only 7 or 8 channels to watch, the appearance of a Charles Bronson movie was something around which to plan a day. My buddy Jim and I once wore cowboys hats to watch Chato's Land and punched each other black & blue in our unbridled joy.
I always wondered why I never saw Bronson on the Tonight Show or doing publicity for his movies. I did read an interview with him from the mid-80s where he mentioned David Letterman specifically and said that he didn't often go on such shows because if Letterman started with any of the "silly shit", that he would "slap him out of his fucking chair". Awesome.

As I've gotten older, the hero worship subsided and I now realize that a lot of his later films are garbage although I do still have a soft spot for them. If I come across 10 to Midnight or Murphy's Law on TV, I just have to watch and smile.

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