by Jack Sommersby
Decent-enough and always entertaining, this typical Bronson actioner promises good action and mostly delivers.Charles Bronson's downhill-spiraling Los Angeles cop Jack Murphy definitely proves the validity of the oft-cited Murphy's Law: that if something can possibly go wrong, it will. Over-the-hill, alcoholic, frustratingly lonely, Murphy's already-troubled existence -- he's still fighting with his ex-wife, who left him and is now a stripper; his drinking's starting to affect his judgment on the job -- is decidedly worsened when a psychotic woman, Joan Freeman (Carrie Snodgress), whom he captured and sent away several years before, has gotten out of prison and immediately starts exacting revenge on Murphy by killing his former wife and her lover, and framing Murphy for the crime. While in custody, Murphy manages to escape, but handcuffed to him is an unwilling ally: spunky, foul-mouthed young car thief Arabella (Kathleen Wilhoite), who takes an instant disliking to him and proceeds to call him every conceivable obscene name in the book throughout the remainder of the movie's running time, with "jizzbucket" and "dildo-nose" and "monkey vomit" the only printable of the lot. Suffice to say, they don't start out on the best of terms, of course, but along the way while trying to track down Freeman and clear Murphy's name, a grudging respect develops between them, of course, and they eventually make for an oddly endearing pair. (Murphy insists it'd take an entire case, rather than a mere bar, of soap to suitably clean out her mouth.)
"A Pretty OK Bronson Star Vehicle"
What I've described thus far doesn't read like the most original and captivating of stories, gosh knows, and with some truly graphic violence turning the tone grindingly unpleasant at times, Murphy's Law is wildly uneven. But it moves along ably enough and boasts some undeniable entertainment value if you're willing to surrender to it and get past its zenith-level derivativeness. Screenwriter Gail Morgan Hickman comes from a TV background, and it shows in her installing a built-in climax into just about every scene -- rather than character and incident building upon one another, the latter is what's accentuated without much of a smidgen of thought given to the former. Still, Hickman's construction is passable, and Murphy's increasing bad luck takes on an enjoyable sick humor, like when the helicopter he commandeers crash-lands into a barn host to a massive meth lab with armed assailants, or when the crooked cop who has it in for him alerts a crime boss (whose murderous brother Murphy recently killed during a hotage situation) as to his whereabouts in a deserted hotel where the grand finale takes place. Furthermore, Bronson neatly underplays, making Murphy's morning-after hangovers palatable in their intensity; and the Punch-and-Judy rhythm he gets going with the game Wilhoite grows more and more engaging among the endless verbal insults ("What took you so long, butt crust?"). All in all, Murphy's Law isn't nearly outstanding enough to come close to the entertainment value of Bronson's career-best The Evil That Men Do, but on a basic fundamental level it gets the job done.Good viewing for a rainy Saturday afternoon.
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originally posted: 09/02/06 08:01:26