Okay, this one is very much a product of its time. This has its down side:
- The rural ex-army tough guy played by Charles Bronson hires “migrant” workers instead of the local “poor white trash” field hands that are willing to work for less than what the non-Americans will take.
- The romantic interest played by Linda Cristal is a bossy, non-American, Union-organizing troublemaker… the antithesis of the sort of woman that a rural American decorated ex-military farmer/entrepreneur is liable to fall in with.
- Bronson’s character is divorced and cynical. Cristal’s character is painfully crass in all matters pertaining to romance. This combination means there is basically no chemistry and lousy repartee.
So this is utterly shameless propaganda, right from the get go. No amount of scenes with beer, cigarettes, denim, and Ford pickups can paper over this fact. Though I have to say… if you could filter out the hard Left anti-American political message that frames everything, this picture of an America that ceased to exist decades ago is almost precisely like what I remember. At any rate, they have Linda Cristal make a bee line for the kitchen when she goes soft and decides to take up with Bronson’s tough guy that was trying to get rid of her.
The thing that is so appealing about this film is the unvarnished depiction of a no holds barred conflict between two alpha males that simply can’t imagine anyone else being more alpha than them:
Frank Renda: Hey, what’d they bust you for?
Mr. Majestyck: Assault with a shotgun.
Frank Renda: A shotgun? That’s attempted murder, man. They’re gonna jam you the same as me. I got an idea that might work. You don’t worry about it. I give you a phone number to call, we’ll be out of the country before morning.
Mr. Majestyck: I like my idea better.
Frank Renda: Now listen, you come with me… be worth plenty. Sound good?
Mr. Majestyck: You got it ass backwards. I ain’t coming with you, you’re coming with me.
Spoiler warning: Charles Bronson’s character of Mr. Majestyck seriously out-alpha’s the competition. And it is epic. (Also: the Ford pickup out-alpha’s the muscle cars.)
Watching it, one can’t help but think of the lobster conflicts Jordan Peterson describes in the first chapter of his book, Twelve Rules For Life. At dispute level one, outmatched lobsters will merely give up without a fight. At dispute level two, there is a contest of intimidation… with one side eventually losing his nerve. At level three, the lobsters wrestle until one is flipped over on his back. Combatants that insist on settling things lobster-to-lobster at this point are proceeding to dispute level four, where the chances of permanent, debilitating physical harm are likely for one or even both of the lobsters.
In Mr. Majestyck, Charles Bronson skates past the first three dispute levels in ten minutes… and then stays at level four for the duration of the film. After seeing a lot of terrible movies the past several years that were supposedly butchered in the hopes of doing better in the overseas market, it’s nice to see something that directly targets an American cultural touchstone. The way that this character picks out a very modest range to subsist in and then defends it far beyond what any rational person would do, up to and including standing up to the local tough guy, the cops, and the mob is fundamental to the mindset of the Scotch-Irish peoples of the southeastern parts of the United States.
In 1974 and for this particular audience, they didn’t need to kill the protagonist’s dog in order for people to understand what was happening and why.