By Linc Leifeste | August 11, 2014
Director: Richard Fleischer
Writer: Elmore Leonard
Starring: Charles Bronson, Al Lettieri, Linda Cristal, Lee Purcell, Paul Koslo, Taylor Lacher, Frank Maxwell, Alejandro Ray, Jordan Rhodes, Julio Thomas
Charles Bronson portrays a man who loses everything that he holds dear at the hands of violent criminals, driving him to turn to vigilante justice. Sound familiar? Released in 1974 just before Death Wish, the film that would propel Bronson to superstardom, Mr Majestyk finds Bronson playing Vince Majestyk, a Vietnam veteran who now owns a 160-acre watermelon farm in rural Colorado. The film opens with an episode that highlights the simmering racial animosity that some of the area’s white residents have for the large population of migrant workers. Majestyk shows himself to have a progressive, humanitarian streak but ultimately all he really wants to do is bring his crop in. But thanks to his habit of hiring migrant workers, he soon finds himself in the middle of a racial powder keg when he shows up to his farm with his workers in tow only to find Bobby Kopas (Paul Koslo), a local hillbilly hoodlum who dresses like he’s ready for his appearance on the Grand Ole Opry, has a crew of white workers harvesting Majestyk’s melons. A violent confrontation ensues, initiated by Kopas, but it’s Majestyk that soon finds himself arrested and thanks to a prior assault conviction, he winds up stuck in the can.
While there, he encounters a dangerous hit-man, Frank Renda (Al Lettieri), the two men’s lives soon to become entangled when Majestyk finds himself caught in the middle of a violent breakout attempt by Renda’s armed thugs. Bullets fly, bodies pile up and Majestyk soon finds himself on Renda’s hit list. And like that, the film takes a hard turn from the earlier plight-of-the-migrant-worker story to more straight ahead, conventional action film fare. There are fistfights, gun battles and car chases, all of it leading to a final confrontation that only one man will walk away from. It’s no great surprise who is standing at the end.
All of that said, the film does feature an odd extended scene of three machine-wielding gunmen shooting up Majestyk’s recently harvested watermelon crop and boy do those melons explode. Based on an Elmore Leonard novel, the whole concept of Charles Bronson as a watermelon farmer that just wants to bring his crop in but winds up stuck in a life and death battle with a violent hit-man is a bit gonzo. It’s probably that and Bronson’s strong performance (which stands out in the film), more than anything, that makes Mr. Majestyk worthy of renewed attention.