Mr. Majestyk is a 1974 American action film directed by Richard Fleischer and starring Charles Bronson. The film is from an original screenplay written by author Elmore Leonard. He also wrote the novelization based on the movie, a reversal of the usual process of adaptation. Leonard took the title character's last name from a character in his 1969 crime novel The Big Bounce.
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Richard Fleischer|
|Produced by||Walter Mirisch|
|Written by||Elmore Leonard|
|Based on||Mr. Majestyk by|
|Music by||Charles Bernstein|
|Cinematography||Richard H. Kline|
|Edited by||Ralph E. Winters|
|Distributed by||United Artists|
Vince Majestyk (Charles Bronson) is a farmer, an ex-con, a former U. S. Army Ranger instructor and Vietnam War veteran, who owns and operates a watermelon farm in rural Colorado. He needs to harvest his crop in order to keep the farm financially solvent.
A small-time hood, Bobby Kopas (Paul Koslo), attempts to coerce Majestyk into a protection racket of using unskilled drunks to harvest his watermelon crop. Majestyk runs him off with Kopas's own shotgun and hires experienced Mexican migrant workers, including Nancy Chavez (Linda Cristal), a crops picker who is also a union leader. They are romantically attracted to each other. Kopas brings assault charges against Majestyk, resulting in the farmer being placed under arrest.
In jail, Majestyk meets and annoys Frank Renda (Al Lettieri), a notorious mob hit man being transferred to a higher-security prison. Renda's men try to break him out of police custody during a prisoner transport by bus. In the escape attempt, Majestyk drives off in the bus with Renda still in handcuffs. Majestyk plans on trading Renda to the police in return for being released to finish harvesting his melons. Renda offers his captor $25,000 for his freedom, but Majestyk declines the offer. Renda then threatens to kill Majestyk if he does not release him, and for a while Majestyk pretends to have been persuaded to take the money offer, but Majestyk intends to stick with his original plan.
Renda, with the help of his girlfriend, Wiley (Lee Purcell), escapes from Majestyk. Renda learns the charges for which he had been imprisoned have been dropped. He meets up with his right-hand man, Lundy (Taylor Lacher), who advises him to fly to Mexico and enjoy himself. However Renda wants revenge on Majestyk. He arranges for Kopas to drop the charges against Majestyk, and orders his men to find the "melon picker" so he can have the satisfaction of killing him personally. Kopas badly injures a friend of Majestyk, and Renda and his men destroy what's left of Majestyk's harvested crop. Renda approaches Majestyk in a bar in town and tell him he plans to kill him, but Majestyk is not intimidated and knocks Renda down. This further infuriates Renda.
Renda and his men surround Majestyk's home, but Majestyk gets away in a pickup truck driven by Nancy, killing some of Renda's men during the pursuit. Majestyk turns the tables on Renda and becomes the attacker. He tracks Renda to the cabin hideout where he, Wiley, Lundy and Kopas are holding up. Renda sends Wiley to negotiate with Majestyk, but once out of the cabin she realizes she is better off not going back to Renda, so the final clash unfolds with Majestyk pitted against the hired killers Renda and Lundy and the hapless Kopas.
The movie was popular with Bronson action film enthusiasts. Howard Thompson of the New York Times said, "Except for some dutiful splattering of gore, it ticks along rather steadily, under Richard Fleischer's unruffled direction. There is a take-it-or-leave-it air that snugly suits the star's performance, or vice versa." The scene in which Nancy and Majestyk drive away in a pickup truck with Renda's men in hot pursuit became one of the most famous chase sequences of the period, following the recent trend of those in Bullitt (1968) and The French Connection (1971).