Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Charles Bronson: Love and Bullets overview...

In this 1979 movie, titled Love and Bullets, Charles Bronson stars as American cop Charlie Congers. He's approached by his superiors and members of the FBI to journey to Europe, specifically Switzerland, to locate an American woman named Jackie Pruitt (Jill Ireland), the lover of a Godfather-type named Joe Bomposa (Rod Steiger).

The FBI hopes that Pruitt can provide inside information about Bomposa and all of the crime that's taken place in that part of the world. The FBI can't perform this task because it's outside of the United States.

If you haven't seen the film and might be interested in it, don't read further because there's plenty of **spoilers** among my commentary.

In the meantime, as Charlie makes his way to Europe, several of Joe's inner circle of thugs inform him that Jackie's become something of a threat and they feel that she'll turn against them at the first opportunity. They talk Joe into plotting Jackie's murder, a suggestion that sends Joe into all kinds of hysteria due to his genuine love for her, but deep down he also feels that Jackie might stumble onto something that may help the police at some point.

Adding to his miserable feelings is the fact that the more excitable he gets the more he stammers and the more he stammers the more physically assertive he becomes. Critics at the time considered it over-acting but I think it fits the part he's playing to a tee.

Jackie, meanwhile, is from the southern regions of the United States. This fact is pointed out rather conspicuously given her deep southern accent and her habit of wearing wigs. She's pretty much a parody of Dolly Parton. After Charlie and Jackie go on their journey across the continent he can't help but starting falling in love with her. In one scene that takes place on a train Charlie asks her to remove her make-up and hair. She at first refuses but later complies after he threatens to remove them himself. She emerges in shorter hair and no make-up and Charlie loves what he sees. She jokes that the only reason he likes the natural look is because he's used to looking at dead people.

In the next scene they drive to an auto train and are carried from one part of the terrain to another...however, Charlie spots some of Joe's thugs in another car further back in the auto train. Charlie gets out of this by driving his car off the side of a snowy mountain. As the car's rolling out of control, he and Jackie leap out and it crashes into a small electrical station...setting the car on fire.

As the pair make their way through the snowy landscape and to a cabin his persistent questioning causes Jackie to suspect he's a cop. He had been masquerading as one of Joe's hired men up until this point. Charlie confesses to Jackie that he's indeed a cop and that a certain cut-throat by the name of Lobo had turned her name over to the FBI in exchange for a new life and identity. Charlie asks her to tell him anything she can about Joe's murderous dealings and corrupt schemes but she genuinely knows nothing. She tells him that Joe never filled her in on any of his Mob activity...but yet paranoia and the constant badgering from others in the Mob inner circle continue to cause him to suspect her true nature.

Later, one of Joe's thugs discovers the smoldering car and tracks the pair to the cabin hide-out. He sneaks in and threatens Jackie but ultimately passes her by and sets his sights on an unsuspecting Charlie whose outside chopping wood. Just as the thug is about to attack Charlie, Jackie screams out his name and it alerts him to look up near the cabin just in time to see the thug standing on the roof.

The thug fires his gun but Charlie ducks out of danger and devises a trick to create a distraction. As the thug looks off to his left, Charlie comes out of hiding a hurls a hatchet into the guy's back. The thug falls off the roof and rolls down the side of the hill...each tumble and turn pushing the hatchet in deeper.

Later, Charlie and Jackie find themselves in an airway cable car as they continue their journey to the aircraft that'll return both of them to the United States. Upon the cable car's stop at it's next location, the door opens and a massive slaughter takes place as an assassin opens fire on everybody in sight (except for Charlie and Jackie, who manage to escape). The assassin meets his gruesome end almost immediately as he falls underneath the cable car during it's take off to the next location.

Some time later Charlie calls in to report on the progress of his journey. Given his personal feelings for Jackie he tells his bosses that he ants to get her out of the country and back to the United States sooner than planned. The FBI balk at this idea and scold him for getting personal and becoming a one man killing machine and they remind him not to do anything more that'll likely cause an international incident.

After this phone conversation Charlie, of course, feels that the bureaucracy has no real idea of what it's like out in the field of operation and that most of them are only interested in covering themselves politically and economically above all else. In a scene that anticipates the television series, MacGyver, by 6 years we see Charlie take apart a lamp and build a home made nail gun from the parts inside. Using the invention, Charlie ends up killing a couple of informants connected to Lobo. In Geneva, the FBI catch up with Charlie and Jackie and they inform him that they're taking over custody of Jackie and that they no longer need his services. The exchange plays out like an empty thank you...basically telling him that "since you did the dirty work and put your life on the line to find this woman, we'll take over from here...".

As Jackie makes her way under the protection of the FBI to the airplane she asks if she can talk to Charlie, alone. As the two approach one another and state their thoughts and feelings over the entire ordeal they share a kiss...and at that moment a shot rings out and Jackie falls to the ground. The killer happened to be Lobo, whose shot multiple times by members of the FBI.

Charlie finally makes it back to the United States and gets an earful from his less than gracious boss still fretting over foreign relations and social, political, and economic turmoil that his department may potentially be held responsible for. Charlie makes a visit to Louis Monk (Strother Martin) at a private pool. Charlie threatens to drown him unless he hands over information detailing Jackie's death. Not sensing the danger, Monk refuses to come clean and the last thing we see of Monk is him going under water one final time. In the closing scene a casket arrives at the Bomposa estate. Charlie delivers it personally but none of the Mob bosses have any clue who he is. He informs them that it's been sent there from someone named Farroni (Henry Silva) and the body is Jackie Pruitt from Geneva, Switzerland and that's all he knows.

After initially refusing to accept the casket, Joe reluctantly agrees to keep it and reads the card that's attached "Love and bullets, Charlie.". He calls for some of his underlings and they slowly start to lift the lid...the next thing we see is a gigantic explosion as the entire estate is consumed by fire. Inside his car, a smiling and vindicated Charlie drives off to some unknown destination and the scene freezes on his facial expression and the credits roll. Although Charlie says it's Jackie Pruitt in the casket it's probably Monk or it could've been empty and simply rigged with the explosives. It was never revealed one way or the other.

All in all I found the film completely fascinating and entertaining. The movie critics of the time period and even latter day critics may have you believing that this is a terrible movie or it's a hodgepodge collection of confusing melodrama and European sight seeing but believe me it's far from that. It's a pleasant story of two unlikely people falling in love but in traditional melodramatic conventions heartbreak trumps happiness and Jackie falls victim to an assassin's bullet.

Love and Bullets had several releases throughout 1979. It's original release happened in April 1979 in West Germany. It didn't make it's United States premiere until September 1979. It's been released many times on VHS and it's seen several releases on DVD. It's official run time is 1 hour, 43 minutes. The movie is a lot better than critics would have you believing.

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