The Evil That Men Do (1984)

Synopsis:

Charles Bronson (Death Wish) plays an ex-hitman who comes out of retirement in order to avenge the murder of an old friend. His mission takes him to South America, where he finds the man responsible for his friend’s death, a sinister doctor (Joseph Maher, Sister Act) working for the local government as an expert in political torture.

Reaction & Thoughts:

“The evil that men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their bones.” William Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar (Act 3, Scene 2)

The Evil that Men Do is not the best film of its kind, but it’s an entertaining movie nevertheless, especially if you are in the mood for a mean-spirited and unpretentious thriller. The movie offers plenty of hair-raising car chases, gruesome murders, and mayhem, but the lack of a coherent storyline hurts the film a bit.

Directed by J. Lee Thompson (The Guns of Navarone and Cape Fear) from a screenplay by R. Lance Hill and John Crowther (Missing in Action)  based on Hill’s novel of the same name, The Evil that Men Do was made close to the end of Bronson’s reign at the box office, and the film suffers in comparison to his other action movies.

The film is best remembered as one of the nine films Bronson and Thompson made together, a partnership that created some really fun, unpretentious thrillers. Thompson does a good job of keeping up the pace, and septuagenarian Bronson is a pretty spry gun-toting anti-hero. I thought script was the main problem here, but heck, nobody watches these films with the idea of getting a rock-solid story.

The Evil that Men Do has, however, become suddenly, and unexpectedly, relevant to post 9/11 movie audiences. The movie doesn’t try to be anything but an action movie, but within the context of today’s global terrorism, the film’s attitude towards terrorists and torture is interesting. Does torture really work? How far would you go to stop a terrorist? These questions add unintended new layers to the thrilling action set-pieces.

The film has a great supporting cast: Theresa Saldana (I Wanna Hold Your Hand), José Ferrer (The Caine Mutiny), John Glover (The Chocolate War), Joe Seneca (The Verdict), and René Enríquez (Lt. Ray Calletano, TV’s Hill Street Blues). The fine work of the actors lends credibility to the proceedings. I also liked the ominous music score by Oscar-winning composer Ken Thorne (Superman II & III).

Conclusions & Final Thoughts:

The Evil that Men Do is essentially a noirish B-movie and a fine example of the type of roles Bronson was famous for throughout his successful movie career. Fans of action icon Charles Bronson should be pleased. I’m sure action junkies will enjoy it too. The film is not high art by any standards, but compared to producer Michael Bay’s overblown productions, this movie holds up really well. Color, 90 minutes, Rated R.

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