If we’re all lucky, we can all one day hope to heed a calling commensurate to that of Vincent Majestyk successfully harvesting his melons. This Colorado crop farmer’s contract with the land is simple: In exchange for rigorous care and protection, the earth will deliver a healthy bounty for him to sell. Bad thing is that people get in the way of such modest agreements, as they often do. Good thing Mr. Majestyk has a shotgun to show them what for when they threaten his melons.
The title character of this 1974 film from four-decade journeyman filmmaker Richard Fleischer (Fantastic Voyage, Tora! Tora! Tora!) is among the few times Charles Bronson played someone resembling a human with concerns about anything, even if it is relegated to the successful planting of fruit. Under the pen of legendary author Elmore Leonard (Get Shorty and Justified), Mr. Majestyk is an originally written, shockingly violent PG-rated movie featuring a near point-blank chest excavation with the aforementioned firearm. But Charles Bernstein’s fantastic score creates a balance of mourning and moxie, and all of those backdrop ads about gas rations lend it the necessary oomph of hardship and desperation. The whole package looks as stunning as ever with a brand-new 2K master from Kino Lorber, which has reissued this rugged little corker on boutique Blu-ray today.
When Majestyk physically rejects a rotten protection-racket attempt on his land, he finds himself locked up for assault. In prisoner transport, he meets Frank Renda (Al Lettieri), a Mafia assassin en route to maximum-security confines. After Renda’s associates attempt a jailbreak, Majestyk drives off with the transport bus and Renda in tow. Will he take $25,000 to let Renda walk? Nope. Majestyk wants to trade Renda for dropped charges so he can go back to work. Again, the man just wants to harvest his melons. Renda eventually escapes and has a sunny escape path to Mexico. But he takes umbrage at how this melon picker made a fool of him and so begins a cat-and-mouse chase in the foothills.
The distinguishing factors in a Bronson performance are usually just whatever gun he’s using or, come the 1980s, how often he chose to verbally abuse or sexually humiliate someone. Here, the actor brings a John McClane-everyman quality to Vincent Majestyk, as he expertly and effortlessly pisses off everyone around him with his stubborn sense of morality, service and duty to the good land. Of course, he’s also a John Wick antecedent of spartan simplicity and barely contained rage. Truly, Mr. Majestyk would not flinch to scorch every last square inch of this earth … save those in which his melons grow. The schemes and scrapes he initiates are of the highest order for mid-1970s muscle, too. But amid the gunfights and car chases, this is a Bronson movie that’s as much about strategic flourish as explosive fireworks. It’s a simple story, solidly told.
Special features include audio commentary with film historian and Bronson’s Loose! author Paul Talbot, interviews with director of photography Richard H. Kline (Double Impact) and actress Lee Purcell (who plays Renda’s lady-friend), a TV ad and the theatrical trailer.