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Movie Reviews : ‘Messenger of Death’: Bronson in Effective Genre Work

“Messenger of Death” (citywide) is a solid, efficient mystery, crisply directed by J. Lee Thompson and adapted by the veteran Paul Jarrico from a novel by Rex Burns. In this eighth teaming of Charles Bronson and Thompson, Bronson plays a Denver-based investigative reporter, a local celebrity equally capable of taking care of himself at a high-society gala or in a fistfight.

The film opens starkly with a silent killer, his face hidden, implacably shooting down a polygamous farmer’s three wives and six children. The slaughter apparently is the result of a long-standing feud between the farmer’s father (Jeff Corey) and his uncle (John Ireland), both of whom are members of a sect that broke off from the Mormon church when it outlawed polygamy. Reinforcing this assumption is the sect’s belief that in certain instances only “blood atonement"--i.e., execution--can redeem those in a state of sin. Yet Bronson begins to suspect that someone may be exploiting the family feud for some dark purpose.

“Messenger of Death” (rated R for violence) is a genre piece from start to finish, nothing more, nothing less. But its cast is effective, and it gains from its Colorado locations, which include two religious communities that have the look of the real thing. Others featured are Trish Van Devere, Laurence Luckinbill, Daniel Benzali and Marilyn Hassett.


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