Tony Mastroianni Review Collection

"Stone Killer" mixes those bloody cliches

Cleveland Press September 22, 1973

Take a little bit of "Dirty Harry," mix with ingredients from "The Godfather" and "The Valachi Papers," stir in an automobile chase from almost any movie and season with the cliched violence and bloody mayhem, that has become stylish in in films and you have a picture called "The Stone Killer."

The plot of this movie is a confusing mixure of elements which probably results from trying to fashion a film with pieces of so many others.

First there's the hero. He's a tough New York City police detective who keeps

running into suspects who shoot at him. He shoots back, resulting in a lot of dead suspects and the accusation that he's a mean cop.

So what does he do? He goes to Los Angeles and joins the police department there. Does this imply that anything goes on the West Coast?

The part is played in stolid, unemotional fashion by Charles Bronson who tends to play everything in solid, unemotional fashion.

"What hit him?" asks a fellow detective as he and Bronson gaze at a bullet-riddled corpse that is more blood than flesh.

"A complete state of death" replies Bronson in stolid, unemotional fashion.

There's a lot of these characters being wiped out and Bronson sees a tenuous connection. This connection keeps him flying back and forth between New York and Los Angeles which provides a change of scenery if nothing else.

The connection, though he doesn't know it at the time, is Martin Balsam. Balsam is an aging Mafia leader who still remembers a massacre back in the early 1930's when outsiders wrested control of the organization by wiping out all the old leaders.

Balsam has waited for more than 40 years to avenge that massacre. He has recruited a bunch of Army veterans, mostly from the Vietnam War who are expert killers without police records and who will kill for pay. This special army training out in the dessert, will strike in major cities across the country on the anniversary date of that original massacre.

Bronson and his army engage in one battle out there in the desert but not before the New York contingent has left. This allows him to lead another police army in New York which engages the enemy in the empty parking garage basement of a New York building.

This provides an excuse for police and gangster autos to whip around corners and pillars and pile into each other as bullets ricochet in all directions.

The movie was produced by Dino De Laurentis, one of Italy's leading producers, but was made entirely in the United States.

Before inflation and dollar devaluation American producers were scampering off to Europe to make quick and cheap productions. Now the trend is the other way.

Sort of serves us right.