- Directed by J. Lee Thompson
- April 18, 1986 (US)
A lone cop struggles to stay alive while pursued by a crazed killer framing him for a series of murders.
Charles Bronson was one of the great movie tough guys. He walked onto the screen and you knew his character meant business. He made quite a career out of being the baddest dude in a movie. Shoot the bad guys and maybe ask questions. He was a man of rugged features and brawny physique that I am guessing drew on his pre-Hollywood life to give his characters that genuine feel of being threatening.
Enter into this his character of Detective Jack Murphy in Murphy’s Law. This is certainly not a complicated movie but rather a prime example of the excessive violence and ridiculous events that populated action films of the era. You have a hyperviolent cop with a drinking problem and ex-wife (Golden Globe nominee Angel Tompkins). Murphy is the target of a revenge plot that in the real world would not fool anybody for very long by Joan Freeman (Carrie Snodgress) for ruining her life.
Murphy for his part is still pining for his stripper ex-wife whom he is stalking by either showing up at her club or watching outside her apartment while she boinks the club owner who doubles as the new man in her life. And he has a flask always at the ready. The 80s. When alcoholic stalking was treated as no big deal.
During this story Murphy is paired with Arabella McGee (Kathleen Wilhoite) who I guess is meant to be foulmouthed but sounds more like a small child trying to be foulmouthed. What adult in any era called someone “dildo nose”? Points for creativity but either Wilhoite was winging it with dialogue or screenwriter Gail Morgan Hickman had no clue how a foulmouthed person actually talked.
Speaking of dialogue, one thing that jumps out at me are the number of gay insults used in this by both main characters. You just cannot do that today. I couldn’t see anybody writing a character that uses them anymore. No matter how good or bad the character would be nobody would dare put that down on paper in a script.
His nemesis (though Murphy is unaware for a good chunk of Murphy’s Law) is a woman he had arrested 10 years prior. After being released she is killing everybody involved in putting her away and framing Murphy along the way. Why frame Murphy and not just kill him? Because it is Charles Bronson. I am not sure what made him any more special than the other victims. He was just one of the arresting officers. Anywho…
The dialogue in general is a bit clunky. Some of the cast cannot act from the looks of it while others are just phoning it in. Bronson for his part gives significantly better lines than some of the other people involved. It was like he was polishing up his material and giving the part his all rather than simply showing up to collect his check.
The action scenes are nothing unusual though after his arrest I give them props for not having Murphy simply muscle his way out of police headquarters but instead escape by stealing a helicopter. Was it a nod to the classic Breakout or just coincidence?
You can be forgiven for thinking there is more action here than what there is. There is action but it is more Murphy and Arabella following clues in a very 80s fashion as they try to figure out what they got themselves into. Along the way they piss off further Frank Vincenzo (Richard Romanus) whose brother Murphy had blown away before taking a swig from his ever-present flask which leads to a gun and crossbow fueled finale. Yes, there is a crossbow.
Logic often goes out the window-especially in the finale. Murphy gets an axe swipe to the abdomen and just kind of bleeds. His own way too young possible love interest Arabella gets an arrow to the back and lives! I’m curious if her death didn’t test well with audiences so they decided to undo it in the ambulance. Nobody thought she could’ve dodged the arrow and hit her head or something? Anything but surviving a deeply penetrating arrow to the back!
The lines of Murphy’s Law are hammy. Adding in the equally hammy acting and you’ve got very nearly the whole pig here. I put it right up there with Cobra. Neither of these is a movie that should be good but is.
Murphy’s Law is something perfectly suited for connoisseurs of 80s action movies and fans of Charles Bronson. It’s got all the guilty pleasure elements one could want from either which makes it a very niche film but it’s a very good niche film.