- Produced and Directed by Michael Winner
- Based on the 1969 novel A Complete State of Death by John Gardner
- August 8, 1973
A Mafia don enacts a plot to avenge the killings of a group of Mafia dons in 1931 with a bold nationwide simultaneous strike against most of the current Italian and Jewish syndicate heads.
Charles Bronson plays Det. Lou Torrey who is the central character here. Few actors have been able to walk on screen and just be tough without doing anything. Whoever Bronson played, when he walked on screen, you knew the character meant business. His Torrey is no different here.
Torrey is a shoot first and ask questions never type of cop that went out of fashion in cinema during the 80s. Seriously. During the course of investigation Torrey shoots everybody he’s investigating. Or they got shot. I don’t think a single soul involved in this conspiracy to the end of the film. Reminds me a bit of a cutaway from The Simpsons where Bronson filled in for Andy Griffith on The Andy Griffith Show. It was a funny joke that now I get where they drew inspiration from.
And that’s part of the fun here. There is something viscerally entertaining about the old style film cop that would just shoot every bad guy that came across their path. Justice brought about with a ridiculous amount of lead.
To put it mildly Torrey is a controversial detective who transfers out to the west coast and after a random arrest finds himself heading back to New York and following a chain of suspects connected to a murder plot over 40 years in the making. That’s a long time to wait for revenge. I am not sure why Mafia don Al Vescari (Martin Balsam) waited so long. It looks like he had been in his position of authority for some time but only now decides to pull things together.
Norman Fell joins Bronson in this movie as his superior Daniels. I feel Fell was a much better dramatic supporting actor than he was a comedic actor. I loved Mr. Roper and his little side glances at the camera, but Fell is scene stealing in his short moments on here. Interestingly John Ritter also appears in this film as a beat cop named Hart. Fell and Ritter do not share any scenes but it’s an interesting connection that occurred a short time before they worked together on Three’s Company.
The Stone Killer is a hyper violent film from the 70s. At least compared to anything you might see today. I see stuff like this, and it just shows me how much tamer an R-rated movie today is compared to this film for example. There are heavy amounts of profanity coupled with the violence. They just do not make them like this anymore.
The story itself isn’t bad. It’s an intriguing idea and one that could either go in the direction it did here as extremely violent or in a very intellectual direction with the conspiracy unfolding slowly. This is perhaps a movie I would enjoy seeing remade but remade with an eye towards something more serious. While not bad, the ridiculous violence drowns out the more interesting elements present.
The Stone Killer is based on a book called A Complete State of Death. That’s honestly a better title for the movie than The Stone Killer. A Complete State of Death just screams that it is a Charles Bronson movie as well as something cool. Bronson does get to utter the book title during the course of the movie in what is a darkly humorous moment.
Here a “stone killer” is a Mafia hit man who is not themselves a member of the Mafia. Here they are all Vietnam vets and this film references Vietnam heavily. Apparently everybody in this movie or just about everybody has been in Vietnam. It’s a little over the top.
Why won’t moments aside it’s a good film. It’s definitely a macho actioner. One not the greatest of Bronson films it is a good film and it will entertain you. The dialogue is entertaining. and the action is good.
This is nothing deep in the story. It touches on topics like racism and just general bigotry but there is no deep message in the story as a whole. I gave them props for the time and for being direct about addressing the topic of racism. I can think of a few movies from the time where they would’ve made a racial slur and nobody would’ve said anything.
The Stone Killer is not a great movie but it’s an entertaining movie. It’s a guilty pleasure but it’s a guilty pleasure you will visit again if you’re a fan of Charles Bronson or 70s action films.