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The Evil That Men Do

Though Charles Bronson starred in some of the seminal action movies of the 1960s (The Magnificent Seven and Once Upon a Time in the West to name a few), by the late '70s he was the poor man's Clint Eastwood, reworking his Death Wish vigilante character again and again and again. It was a role Bronson played until the late '80s, when the likes of Seagal and Van Damme sent his efforts straight to video. And though he was an iconic actor who had more range than most action stars, the majority of these action films didn't require him to act, only to kill people and look stoic — a look that could easily be mistaken for boredom. 1983's The Evil That Men Do is one of these bored efforts, and — as directed by J. Lee Thompson, the very definition of a hack — it is entirely nothing special. Bronson is Holland, a retired assassin (who we are led to believe only murdered evil people) brought out of retirement to kill torture expert Dr. Clement Molloch (Joseph Maher, played as British and as effete as possible) who has been making a living in Central America being mean to poor people for corrupt governments. Convinced by a dead friend's father to take Molloch and his crew down, Holland is given a fake wife — who eventually falls for him and affirms his heterosexuality — and goes after Molloch's men one by one, leading up to Molloch himself. There are essentially three ways to make a story such as this interesting: one is to play up the parallels between (and the gray in) Molloch and Holland, playing off Holland's "reformation;" the second is to make Holland's revenge machinations as elaborate as possible, so when the Rube Goldbergian plots come full circle, it's amazing and amusing; the third is to cram the film with as much exciting action as humanly possible. Unfortunately, The Evil That Men Do does none of these things, leaving long dry scenes where Bronson follows someone and then, after minimal plotting, kills them. One hopes that a Tarantino-esque director resurrects Bronson's career solely to give more weight to his filmography — as Sean Penn tried with his brief role in The Indian Runner — but until such may happen, films like The Evil That Men Do are merely blots on his career. Columbia TriStar's DVD offers the film in a grainy anamorphic transfer (1.85:1) as well as a full-frame option, while audio is DD 2.0 mono. Theatrical trailers for this and other action pictures, keep-case.

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