Action Movie Fanatix Review: Messenger of Death

Messenger of Death banner

What The Cops Can’t Do, He Will!

Starring: Charles Bronson, Trish Van Devere, Laurence Luckinbill, Daniel Benzali, Marilyn Hassett, John Ireland

Director: J. Lee Thompson

1988  |  91 Minutes  |  Rated R

“You’re a journalist.  You’re not welcome here.” – Orville Beecham
“So I’ve noticed.” – Garrett Smith

I discovered Charles Bronson a little later in my action movie lifetime so I have been playing a little catch up.  I’ve loved the Death Wish and Mechanic movies but as an action fan you have to go into a Charles Bronson movie a little differently than you would a Stallone movie.  Charles Bronson is a different kind of action hero.

Garrett Smith (Charles Bronson) is a crime reporter investigating the slaughter of Morman Orville Beecham’s wives and children.  Orville is taken into protective custody but refuses to help the police with their investigation.  Smith convinces Orville Beecham to help him in his own investigation and finds out about other motives for the murders and seeks to uncover the truth himself.

The movie opens with the massacre of the wives and children of Orville Beecham which is a really effectively filmed scene.  Regardless of whether you agree with Mr. Orville Beecham or not, you would be hard pressed to think he or his family deserved this.  All the more reason to get behind Bronson.  Unfortunately after this we have a long wait before the next action scene.

Messenger of Death is an interesting role for Charles Bronson.  Even though Garrett Smith doles out justice like many of the other Bronson characters he is also a thinking man, he’s a reporter.

J. Lee Thompson teamed with Charles Bronson nine times and I definitely have not seen all nine movies yet so I really can’t rank Messenger of Death against their other works.  The pace of Messenger of Death is the real downfall of the movie.  It is a rather plodding pace with only a few sparks of action.  This can partially be blamed on the script but I feel the blame ultimately lands on Thompson’s shoulders.  Messenger of Death has the pacing of a 70s action movie but was released smack in the middle of the action movie nirvana that was the 80s/90s.

The script is probably stronger than many of Bronson’s other films but it is a lot less exciting.  This isn’t a case where the bad guys are clear cut from the beginning.  There is a mystery for Garrett Smith to figure out before he can shoot it up.

I found Messenger of Death’s story to be mildly entertaining but the lack of action lost me in a few parts.  While the story may be a little stronger than some of J. Lee Thompson and Charles Bronson’s other movies, judged as an action movie it doesn’t fare very well.  It’s worth watching but will probably never make it into the starting rotation.

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