80's Thriller Throwback: Messenger of Death

Messenger of Death VHS cover scan courtesy of VHSArchive.blogspot.com
Messenger of Death has been on my radar for a long time, mainly because it's a film that Bronson made with both Cannon Films and director J. Lee Thompson, a frequent collaborator. Back in the 80's, Bronson, and sometimes together with Thompson, made a number of films for Cannon Films on a yearly basis, which would include some of his best and most loved classics like 10 to Midnight, the Death Wish films, AssassinationKinjite, and this one. Recently I picked up a cheap 3-Film Pack that included this film, The Mechanic and Assassination for an insanely low price of $5. You just can't beat that! Naturally, this was the first film I dug into, so let's get started.

A massacre of a Mormon family leads to a rivalry between 2 opposing heads, who are also brothers, of a Mormon branch. Reporter Garrett Smith feels that there's more to the murders than a simple rivalry between brothers, and sets out to investigate what's really going on.

Messenger of Death was interesting in that it's not an action film like I was anticipating. It doesn't take away from the fact that it's a solid film, because it is. I was just surprised. In fact, when I look back on it, especially in the way it ended, this film easily could have been a Movie-of-the-Week or a Made-for-TV film. It's that kind of film; simple, not overly violent, no nudity, and more of a mystery/thriller than anything. I think it's all these elements that really kind of threw me for a loop, yet it's all done really well because J. Lee Thompson is an accomplished director.

As far as Bronson goes, well, he's pretty much playing the same exact character that he plays in nearly every single film. Really, other than a change in name, he's essentially just playing Paul Kersey from the Death Wish films. But you know, that's fine. It works. Charles Bronson plays it all the same, Bronson style and it's effective and even a bit comforting in a certain sense.

There's really nothing major that makes this film stand out from the pack. There's no real hardcore violence, other than in the beginning, and the film is pretty simple and straight-forward. The ending even made me chuckle a bit, because it's the sort of ending that you'd see on a television show drama. Yet it's a very well made film and engaging enough to keep you invested, even if the majority of the film is just Bronson doing a lot of investigating and asking questions. It's effective in a practical yet entertaining way because Thompson, Bronson and Cannon know how to sell it and make it look good.

While I wouldn't say this is one of the best collaborations between them, it's certainly a worthwhile effort. You might not be blown away, but you'll most certainly enjoy it nonetheless if you're into these kinds of films. And thankfully, I am.

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