Whenever I hear the word “vigilante” one man instantly comes to mind… the late, great Charles Bronson.
Charles Bronson had a long and lucrative career killing bad guys on screen and in this installment of The Essentials, I’ll share with you the ten Bronson Kills you need to see.
What makes a good Bronson Kill? A unique weapon never hurts. But the dialogue that surrounds a kill can often raise the stock of an otherwise “routine” kill and make it a memorable movie moment.
1. Freddie Flakes in Death Wish V: The Face of Death: The fifth installment of Death Wish is by far the weakest entry in the franchise, but if there is one scene that can save the movie it is when Bronson’s character, Paul Kersey, kills Freddie Flakes (Robert Joy) with a remote control soccer ball. Freddie got the name Flakes due to his chronic dandruff problem. Now Freddie is a security freak. His home is a fortress, with a gate that surrounds it, security cameras and a high tech alarm system. Kersey knows he’s not going to be able to get in himself, so he goes to a toy store and finds a remote control soccer ball. He gets the ball on to Freddie’s property. This triggers the alarms and Freddie suits up ready for war and goes outside. When he gets there he finds a soccer ball rolling around in his drive way and has a “Darn kids!” look on his face… but wait, who is that standing over there by the gate? It is Paul Kersey holding the remote for the soccer ball (an important note, he has converted the soccer ball into an explosive device). “Hey Freddie. I’m gonna take care of your dan-druff problem for ya.” Then with the touch of a button, the soccer ball blows up in Freddie’s face. Freddie screams in terror as he burns to death. I like that Kersey looks on for a few moments to admire a job well done.
2. Fraker in Death Wish 3: There are kills and then there are overkills. Fraker’s demise in Death Wish 3 would definitely fall in the overkill category. Fraker though he had outsmarted Paul Kersey (Bronson) and police captain Richard Shriker (Ed Lauter) by wearing a bullet proof vest… but the vest was not missle proof as he found out when Bronson fired a missle at Fraker and took Fraker and the outside wall of the apartment building out.
3. Warren Stacy in 10 to Midnight: When serial killer Warren Stacy (Gene Davis) reminds cop Leo Kessler (Charles Bronson) that mentally sick people can’t be punished for killing people, all you can do is lock them up but not forever, because that’s the law. Stacy then goes on to say one day he’ll get out and the whole world will hear from him… Kessler then utters the line “No we won’t.” and shoots Stacy right in the head. Did I mention that Stacy is nude in the middle of the street when all this happened?
4. Stomper in Death Wish II: When Paul Kersey (Bronson) follows Stomper (Kevyn Major Howard) to a drug deal at an abandoned hotel, it ends up being the last drug deal Stomper will ever be a part of. Prior to shooting Stomper, Kersey notices the crucifix that Stomper is wearing. Kersey then asks Stomper if he believes in Jesus. After Stomper replies in the affirmative, Kersey says “Well, you’re gonna meet him.” and he proceeds to shoot Stomper dead.
5- Joan Freeman in Murphy’s Law: Jack Murphy (Bronson) is a cop dealing with psychopath Joan Freeman (Carrie Snodgress) who he and his partner arrested years earlier. During their final showdown, an ax wielding Freeman is kicked over a railing by Murphy, the ax however gets jammed in the railing, temporarily saving her as she clings to it for dear life. Murphy watches her slowly lose her grip on the ax handle. Freeman is begging him to help her, he does not. She then tells Murphy to go to hell, but gentleman Jack Murphy says “Ladies first.” and a second later she plunges to her death.
6- Frank Bauggs in Death Wish 4: The Crackdown: Murphy’s Law is not the only time Bronson used gravity to aid him in a kill. Frank Bauggs (David Fonteno) and his lovely lady are going out for a night at the opera. The couple has a warm and loving relationship where they are open and honest in their communication. For instance, Frank tells his lady that she needs to lose weight and how she looks like a big rooster in her tacky dress. She on the other hand hates his love of opera and wishes he would drop dead. When the couple leaves their high rise condo, Paul Kersey sneaks in to tap their phones. But when Bauggs has to go back upstairs to get the opera tickets he forgot, he catches Kersey in the act and trouble ensues! Bauggs’ living room becomes Pier 6. Kersey smashes him into his projection TV, throws him into some shelves and then after a bar stool to the back, Bauggs goes through the window and literally drops dead right onto the very limousine where his lady was waiting for him.
7- The Giggler in Death Wish 3: The Giggler earned his name because when he ran, he laughed. I’m not sure why he found running so amusing, but he did. And not only did The Giggler run, he could run really fast. I mean that guy could really move. Unfortunately for The Giggler, he used his God given speed for evil and not for good. The Giggler could snatch a purse and be gone before you could call for help and NOBODY could ever catch him. That is until Paul Kersey (Bronson) and his friend the Wildey .475 Magnum teamed up. Kersey baits The Giggler by walking down the street leisurely eating some ice cream while he had a camera over his shoulder. The Giggler could not resist, he wanted that Nikon camera and he got it. Snatching the camera, running and laughing away. Kersey ditches his ice cream bar, pulls out Wildey, targets The Giggler as he is running away, pulls the trigger and we find out that The Giggler is not faster than a speeding bullet.
8- Nirvana in Death Wish II: Sometimes you have to improvise and that is exactly what Paul Kersey (Bronson) did in regards to Nirvana. One by one Kersey had taken out members of the gang that raped and killed his housekeeper and kidnapped and raped his daughter, only one remained, it was Nirvana. Unfortunately for Kersey, the police got to Nirvana before he could. Nirvana stood trial, but the defense was that he did all the awful things he did because he was high on PCP. So instead of prison, he was sent to a state mental hospital. Not satisfied with the legal system’s idea of justice, Kersey poses as Dr. Peter Carter to get inside the mental hospital where he will shoot Nirvana dead. The best laid plans… once Kersey gets Nirvana into one of the examination rooms alone, his gun plan goes awry and Nirvana is putting up a fight. The two brawl to the back of the room where the old shock treatment equipment was. Kersey avoids a wild punch thrown by Nirvana, Nirvana’s fist and arm go right through the shock treatment equipment, thinking fast, Kersey throws the power switch thus electrocuting Nirvana.
9- The Arms Dealer with the Rainbow Suspenders in Death Wish II: When Paul Kersey (Bronson) tails the gang members he is looking to kill, he gets more than he bargained for when he witnesses them exchanging drugs for guns. The Arms Dealer with the Rainbow Suspenders also gets more than he bargained for as he takes off in his car, Kersey shoots him, the car then goes off the road, plunges into the ravine and blows up on impact. If the gun shot didn’t kill him, the explosion certainly did.
10- Steve McKenna in The Mechanic (1972): Steve McKenna (Jan-Michael Vincent) becomes hitman Arthur Bishop’s (Charle Bronson) apprentice of sorts… but in the classic tale of the student betraying the teacher, McKenna poisons Bishop while the two are on a hit in Italy. McKenna returns to the United States and to Bishop’s swanky bachelor pad. When Steve goes to take a drive, he finds a note from Bishop on the dashboard. It explains that by opening the door, Steve just triggered an impending explosion, Bishop even went so far to sign the note “Bang! You’re Dead.” And the car blows up and Steve dies. Bishop was a wise man and anticipating that Steve could likely betray him, allowed Bishop to kill from beyond the grave, which is something I’m not sure any other action movie icon can claim.
Honorable Mentions: The Fake Nathan White (John P. Ryan) in Death Wish 4: The Crackdown gets incinerated by a grenade launcher… Cutter (Laurence Fishburne) in Death Wish II: Shot after the boom box he takes cover behind is not enough to stop Paul Kersey’s bullet… Jiver in Death Wish II: Nothing fancy about this one, Kersey just shoots him dead but it is Bronson’s delivery of the simple line “Goodbye” that makes this one so memorable.