The Stone Killer (1973)    0 Stars

“This cop plays dirty!”

The Stone Killer (1973)
The Stone Killer (1973)


Director: Michael Winner

Cast: Charles Bronson, Martin Balsam, Jack Colvin

Synopsis: An ex-New York detective learns a 1930s mobster has formed a killer elite to settle a gangland score.







Crumple-faced Charlie Bronson (The Mechanic, The White Buffalo) is a tough, no-nonsense cop who finds himself drummed out of the NYPD after shooting dead a teenage suspect trying to leave the scene of a crime. He’s hired by the LAPD and finds himself, by convoluted means, on the trail of a Mafia boss (Martin Balsam – 12 Angry Men, Psycho) planning to use disillusioned Vietnam vets to rub out his Mafioso rivals in revenge for a similar massacre forty years before.

I usually enjoy these tough 1970s crime flicks, but this one left me cold. The plot was unnecessarily convoluted, which only served to make the story drag between action set pieces. While these action scenes are well-directed, Michael Winner seems to be trying too hard to prove his creativity and dynamism during the quieter scenes. His misguided ambitions manifest themselves in dramatic angles or gimmicky shots that prove a distraction. Do we really need to see Bronson’s boss filmed between the narrow columns of his desk lamp? It’s common practice for something to be placed in the foreground of a shot to provide a sense of depth, but Winner goes overboard, having telephones and cheap busts occupy a third of the screen and squeezing his characters into the rest of the frame for confined interior shots in which an angled position would have served just as well.

The film is clearly influenced by Dirty Harry, and although this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, The Stone Killer suffers by comparison. It has a nice gritty 1970s feel about it, and is populated by dozens of familiar faces, but it all feels a bit dated today – especially when the action briefly visits a hippy commune. Amusing to see Ralph ‘Pa Walton’ Waite (Cool Hand Luke) playing a racist cop, though.

(Reviewed 23rd February 2012)

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