Viking Night: Mr. Majestyk
By Bruce Hall
March 21, 2017
When making an action film, it’s important to consider how to introduce your main character.
There have been many great action stars over the years, and they all tend to have their particular way of making an entrance. Clint Eastwood usually shoots a street punk in the face, right after delivering a withering quip by way of his patented Perma-Sneer. Arnold was always fond, in his heyday, of doing something that required all 22 inches of bicep to be in shot. High-fiving Carl Weathers, lifting a car over his head, or punching Henchman #12 so hard his head splatters like an overripe tomato.
Throw in some napalm, put up a title card with those cool letters that look like they’re made out of metal, and you’re ready to roll your opening credits.
But there’s a different kind of hero; one who needs no such introduction. The first time we meet John McClane, he’s on an airplane listening to some schlub talk about carpet. But you know you’re looking at a badass, because he smirks a lot and illegally carries his service weapon across state lines. But this isn’t the kind of man I’m talking about. Later in the film, McClane loses his shit and is running around, screaming and snapping necks like Jack Black after a crash six week weight loss regimen of cocaine and Pixie Stix.
The variety of hero to which I refer is the kind of guy who never raises his voice, never loses his composure, and is at his best behind the wheel of something both distinctly American and wholly environmentally appalling.
What I’m saying is, you may not like his methods but he gets results.
And he doesn’t have to DO anything to be cool, other than walk on screen. The only parts of Bullitt I remember are the ones where Steve McQueen was either driving a car, or walking through the airport with a gun, hunting down mafia scum and crushing a turtleneck/blazer combo in ways that would make Sterling Archer spot himself.
When you’re that goddamned cool, it doesn’t MATTER how they introduce you. I guess that’s why the very first shot of Mr. Majestyk is Charles Bronson exiting a gas station rest room, with a look on his face that suggests that restroom just got its ass kicked. Can you imagine a James Bond movie starting with Daniel Craig stepping out of an airplane lavatory, gruffly yanking up his fly just as the characteristic WHOOSH abruptly disappears behind that weird faux-wood telephone booth door?
Granted, this would already be a better film than Spectre, but I don’t want to get off track here. Not only does Mr. Majestyk begin in this fashion, but that particular bathroom, as it turns out, plays the most critical role in the film. It serves as a plot device that A) reveals Vince Majestyk (Bronson) to be a disciplined, no nonsense man of principle who doesn’t take kindly to casual racism, and B) provide the female lead with her first and only effective scene. You know how it was back then. It was okay to have a strong female lead, as long as she was strong in her first scene, and spent the rest of the movie either not IN the movie, or getting her extremely shapely ass handed to her.