Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Charles Bronson: Donato and Daughter review...

This is a good film starring Charles Bronson and Dana Delany. Pay close attention to Bronson's future wife, Kim Weeks, playing the role of Russ Laurie's wife.

Originally "Dead to Rights" aired as a made-for-TV movie on CBS in 1993 under the title "Donato and Daughter". I assume that the film's title changed for commercial reasons and that VHS and later, DVD, manufacturers and distributors perhaps felt that the title "Dead to Rights" had better action-adventure marketability than the more peaceful sounding "Donato and Daughter"...but that's just my theory.

The film is mostly about an extremely strained relationship between a veteran of the police force, Sgt. Mike Donato (Bronson) and his daughter, Lt. Dena Donato (Delany). On the surface you may think that the strained relationship has to do with Mike's daughter out-ranking him at the police station but in reality it goes much deeper than that. Although Mike is overprotective and is prone to second guessing his daughter's ideas it's revealed that he once had a son (her brother, Tommy) whose circumstances surrounding his death have been kept a mystery to Dena. All she knows is her brother happened to be a policeman, too.

The main plot surrounds the murders of several nuns in Los Angeles. Dealing with reporter's questions one day, a reporter said to Dena: "So, what you're saying is all the nun's living in L.A. have nothing to fear..." and she shot back: "I wouldn't presume to say that about anyone in L.A.". In the movie Dena's best friend is another officer named Judy...but she's murdered about half an hour into the movie up on a roof top during a chase scene. If this chaos and turmoil isn't enough, Dena's mother reveals that she once seen visual evidence that connected Tommy to various drug runners and underground organizations but that Mike is unaware that she knows of Tommy's drug connection. The mother says that Tommy only became a cop to please Mike.

On the investigation side of things the police have several suspects as the nun killer. One suspect doesn't pan out...he happens to be an artist who lives in an elaborate home studio and just doesn't seem to be the type they're looking for. In the meantime suspect 2 is a creepy businessman named Russ Loring. He's approached by Mike and is questioned...but Russ insists on their getting a search warrant and give specific detail about obscure facts surrounding police searches. Mike curiously states: "You seem to know a lot about police procedures" and Russ replies "I guess it's all that reality programming on television.". A line like that, from 1993 no less, is hugely ironic considering the kinds of programs that eventually found their way on television in the following decade! During a confrontation with a junkie Mike discovers that there's some crazed man dressing up in a nun's outfit.

A little less than an hour later, viewers learn that suspect 2 is indeed the nun killer and from this point forward it becomes a cat and mouse game. One of the memorable scenes at this point in the film is seeing Russ holding up a jar of fingers that he cut off from the nuns he murdered.

Mike's wife, meanwhile, decides she's had enough of being home alone most days and nights. She tells Mike that she's going away for awhile and tells him she's become lonely.

Mike pays a visit to Russ' mother's shack. He tells her that he feels that her son is the murderer of several nuns and several other women. In a shocking and chilling twist, the mother (Julianna McCarthy) doesn't feel shame or regret...she actually makes excuses for Russ and says that if her son killed anybody then they must have deserved it. Later, Mike puts together a collage of the murdered nuns and realizes each of them fit a similar profile. Each victim is dark haired and young. Dena gets this look of vulnerability on her face and looks as if she's wondering is she'll be the next victim given her age and dark hair.

Throughout this chain of events Mike and Dena become friendlier toward one another without even realizing it. But just as if it looks like the father and daughter will become nice to each other permanently she asks about Tommy once more. Mike reveals that Tommy didn't get killed in the line of fire as he had let the public at large believe in a press conference. Instead, Tommy committed suicide by overdosing on drugs.

Mike and Dena are later eating at a restaurant and they encounter Russ. Later, Russ rushes home and is encountered by his wife (played by Bronson's future wife, Kim Weeks) who wants to know why she found a police suit in their house (it happened to be one his various disguises). She attempts to get the police but he stabs her multiple times in the stomach with a knife. Given that this is a made-for-TV movie there's no graphic imagery as there definitely would have been if it had been a theatrical release or a direct-to-video release. Instead, all the viewers see is Russ pushing his arm into his wife's stomach several times, knowing he had a knife in his hand as he approached her.

Russ eventually takes Dena as a hostage after everyone closes in on his location. He insists on having a helicopter delivered so he can escape. The movie's climax takes place on the roof top. As the helicopter arrives and hovers a bit too close to the side of the building Dena falls from Russ' arms. Russ bends forward in an attempt to take her hostage once more but by then Mike's arrived on the scene and shoots Russ multiple times. The film ends as Mike and Dena walk along the roof top and as the two of them talk their voices fade to the closing music.

As a made-for-TV movie it carries a lot of quieter musical overtones during emotional scenes...lots of piano and softer sounding accompaniment and visually it comes off as a television production, too.

All in all it's a good movie!

The one thing left unresolved is Mike's future with his wife. It's to be assumed that she eventually returned and he finally retired from the police force.

I've been updating my Charles Bronson collection. I've started to replace the VHS tapes with DVD copies. I started this a couple of weeks ago. I hadn't seen a lot of those VHS movies because I hadn't had an active VCR in awhile and so it's nice to have them on DVD finally. Here's some of the films I've recently purchased on DVD that originally I only had on VHS...

This is the DVD copy that I have of 1987's "Assassination". I recently submitted a review over on Amazon of that film. This film is another good one starring Charles Bronson and Jill Ireland in a political plot boiler revolving around secrets, lies, betrayal, and scandal. I also have a DVD copy of all the "Death Wish" films. I'll post an image of those in a couple of paragraphs. One of his films that I already had on DVD is 1988's "Messenger of Death". As you can tell from some of the DVD artwork, a lot of the poses of Bronson are a bit misleading if you hadn't seen the films beforehand. Much later DVD releases of his earlier films, for example, feature a much older Bronson on the cover. I come across a DVD release of one of his early '70s films and they inexplicably had a mid 1980's photo of Bronson as cover art. It looks as if they'd use a photo of Bronson from the era in which the film was originally released! I've got a 2 movie-on-1 DVD release of 1983's "10 to Midnight" and 1989's "Kinjite: Forbidden Subjects". The movies I have on VHS that I haven't purchased on DVD yet are: "Breakheart Pass", "Cabo Blanco", "Breakout", "Death Hunt", "Borderline", "Cold Sweat", and "Telefon". Now, to be specific, all but one of those films I recorded during their television airings. "Cabo Blanco" is the only one of those specific films in which I have the actual studio release VHS copy. I've since put in an order for the DVD copies of "The Evil that Men Do" and good ol' melon farmer, "Mr. Majestyk". I've got those on VHS already, recorded from television. Here's some more photo's...starting off with 1974's "Death Wish" and continuing on with a single DVD release of the next 3 films in the franchise (from 1982, 1985, and 1987 respectively) and followed by the fifth film of the franchise in 1994...

Released in 1974, this film has largely been written about and written up as Bronson's best of the franchise. It's only natural that people bestow such lofty praise on the first film in an eventual 5-film series. A lot of the praise has to do with the fact that it's the first one and given that it doesn't have any previous film to compare it to enables it to be considered the best of the series by so many. I happen to love the movie but I also happen to love the other 4 films in the series, too. One of the things I don't do is get overly technical in my commentaries about movies. I don't discuss film print quality, aspect ratios, letterbox vs. wide screen vs. high definition vs. standard, nor do I write much about audio or music found in the movies. I keep my commentaries to the basics: the plot of the film and my commentary.

These 3 films came to define Charles Bronson's career during the 1980s. The first sequel, from 1982, has the vigilante in California. Bronson is not the only action-adventure movie star to portray a recurring character in a movie series but for whatever reason, be it artistic reasons or different tastes in entertainment, movie critics trashed and blasted these films even though at the same time Bronson entertained his audience ith the vigilante films you had other top movie stars like Chuck Norris and Sylvester Stallone appearing in a strings of films starring the same character, too. In Stallone's case it happened to be the characters of military specialist Rambo and boxer, Rocky Balboa. Chuck Norris, on the other hand, starred in a string of karate-styled action movies and appeared in the trilogy of "Missing in Action" films during roughly the same time as Bronson's "Death Wish" sequels. It's no surprise that Bronson lacked the huge muscular physique of a Stallone and it's also not a secret that Bronson never utilized any karate moves in his films but he nonetheless was a giant among action-adventure movie stars.

I had read so many God awful scathing reviews of this film, from professional and amateur critics alike, that deep down in my heart I knew I'd love this movie right away! It's "Death Wish, 5: The Face of Death". Yes, I indeed happened to like the movie. It's amazing that so many movies that are panned by critics I tend to like. This film deals with Paul Kersey's revenge on a mobster, Tommy O'Shea, and his corrupt business practices that have ruined a lot of people Paul happens to know. Adding to the complication is Tommy's ex, Olivia, is Paul's girlfriend and later, his fiancee. Paul becomes a vigilante once more after Olivia's murdered. Her daughter with Tommy, Chelsea, becomes one of Tommy's targets as he seeks custody of his biological daughter. Of course it's clear that Chelsea doesn't want to have anything to do with her father but the court legally gives Tommy custody. Eventually, one by one, Paul seeks out and kills everyone in Tommy's inner circle...eventually killing Tommy in a battle near a pool of acid.

Here's the photo of the DVD combo "10 to Midnight" and "Kinjite: Forbidden Subjects"...

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