The Stone Killer (1973)
In many respects, Michael Winner's 1973 hard-boiled cop movie, The Stone Killer contains pretty much all the obligatory tropes and memes associated with both the genre and the decade. Hippies, black militants, casual racism and of course disgruntled Vietnam veterans. In the absence of any no computers, Detective Lou Torrey (the ubiquitous Charles Bronson) favoured method of solving crimes is to beat, threaten and shoot everyone who may be a suspect. Obviously remembering to read people their Miranda rights is far too much like hard work. This is how cop movies were in the seventies and the public ate them up.
The Stone Killers has an unnecessarily complex plot about a group of Sicilian Dons, led by Martin Balsam, hiring a group of ex-soldiers (The Stone Killer of the title) to eliminate the current heads of a national crime syndicate and right a wrong from forty years ago. Mr. Bronson stumbles across the plot and effectively kills everyone until the mystery is solved. He's aided by Ralph Waites who plays a racist redneck cop and rookie patrolman John Ritter. The movie is casually racist, misogynist and shows the seventies for the utterly shit decade that they were aesthetically. As ever the great Michael Winner directs with glee and revels in the seedier aspect of the plot. The movie also benefits from a get-down-funky, Roy Budd score that has a superb psychedelic vibe running through it. There are several well shot car chase which were essential action sequences at the time. It's quite nostalgic to watch the gas guzzling, unaerodynamic cars lumbering through the harsh cityscapes.
The movie also contrast great wealth with great poverty with some excellent shots of inner city decay. There is also some interesting attention to detail with regard to the mercenaries’ military tactics. Having gunned down their targets at the movies climax, the leader goes around all the bodies and shoots them with a pistol to ensure all are dead. The Stone Killer also has a dated penchant for the use of dummies in several high falls; the results are hilarious rather than shocking.
The Stone Killer is an interesting example of the sort of bleak, mainstream action fodder that was prevalent in the movie theatres at the time. As ever Bronson is compelling to watch, despite not playing an especially likeable character. Then again, there are no especially nice ones either. Despite being an action thriller, the viewer still has to think about the plot. Something that seems to have fallen by the wayside in modern equivalent movies. The film ends on a curiously philosophical note, with Bronson alluding to the fact that the bad guys may well have got away with things and be untouchable by the law, but it's only a matter of time before their own community turns on them. The Stone Killer is not up to the standards of Dirty Harry or The Mechanic but it is still a good example of an old-school genre film making.