By 1984, Charles Bronson was no longer the big action star he once was. He was getting older and the era of action heroes like Arnold Schwarzenegger, Mel Gibson, and Bruce Willis was fast approaching. But Bronson still had his following, and each year, like a grizzled gun-totting Woody Allen, he would deliver one, if not two, new action flicks. Sometimes they weren’t even part of the Death Wish series! 1984 saw him return with an outrageously violent effort – The Evil that Men Do.
The film opens in a strange medical facility. A naked and bloody female body lays on a gurnee as a figure wearing a black hood appears to be giving a lecture to a bunch of South American military commanders on torture techniques. The man eventually removes the hood to reveal himself to be a somewhat harmless-looking white-haired man called Molloch, or simply The Doctor (Joseph Maher). He then proceeds to carry out a demonstration on a reporter named Hidalgo who was trying to expose The Doctor. The reporter is stripped naked and hung from a strange apparatus before having electrodes attached to various body parts, including his genitals. The juice is turned up and a few minutes later he’s a bloody mess. We’re only five minutes in here folks!
We then move to a peaceful tropical island where a man named Hector Lomelin (Jose Ferrer) comes to deliver the news of Hidalgo’s death to former CIA agent Holland (Bronson). Holland and Hidalgo had been friends, so Lomelin hopes to convince him to come out of retirement to hunt down The Doctor. At first Holland resists, but after watching a bunch of videos where people describe in graphic detail the horrors they were subjected to by The Doctor he signs on. In order to get close to Molloch he’ll need a convincing cover, however. He asks for a fake wife and child so he’ll look like a tourist. Of course, it is determined that Hidalgo’s widow Rhiana (Theresa Saldana) is right for the job. Her own daughter comes along to complete the picture.
What follows is out-of-control as Holland slowly starts to take out the various people who are part of The Doctor’s organization. He starts by killing The Doctor’s bodyguard (Raymond St. Jacques) after luring him back to his hotel room with promises of a threesome with he and his wife. He then goes after The Doctor’s sister Claire (Antoinette Bower). He sneaks into her apartment and hides under the bed while she has a lesbian encounter and then kidnaps her. Now, he plans to lure The Doctor out with a ransom demand, but The Doctor has a few tricks up his sleeve, as well.
The Evil That Men Do is just plain crazy and, I gotta admit, I ate it up! Pretty much what we have here is an exploitation flick but with a major star giving it a bit more legitimacy. Let me give you the run-down on how crazy this flick is. We start with a nasty torture scene, then we get graphic descriptions of others who have been tortured. Then we visit a cock-fight – always good for a few laughs. Bronson fights off a giant of a man by grabbing him in the crotch and practically twisting his nuts off. He then hurls a knife at a guy, nailing him in the throat. Then there’s the bit where Bronson hides under the bed, after which he finds time to kill a baddie by wrapping a fire hose around his neck and dropping him about ten stories, dangling above the street. Several people get blown away with shotguns, including one direct hit to the face. It’s all very bloody and nasty and so help me it’s a trip.
Part of why it all works is the first scene of the movie, which is extremely unpleasant and may be enough to convince many viewers to not even attempt to watch this film. However, it does and effective job of creating a truly evil villain. From that point on we don’t care what Bronson has to do to get rid of this guy…he just needs to be stopped. Who else but Bronson to do it!
At this point in Bronson’s career, there wasn’t a whole lot of variety in the roles he played. They pretty much all had two things in common: they killed bad guys and they squinted a lot. In 1984 we were right at the beginning of the time when action heroes would always have a quippy remark ready to go after disposing with a bad guy. That’s definitely not Bronson. Had this been Ahnold or Willis, with their quick one-liners, this story just wouldn’t have worked. It would’ve become ridiculously cartoonish. With Bronson it’s still over-the-top crazy, but in a wonderful dark and menacing way. This is a perfect fit for Bronson. I’ve also got to applaud the casting of Joseph Maher as The Doctor. When we first see him his face is covered in an executioners-style mask – it’s quite jarring when it’s removed and we see a rather peaceful looking silver-haired man. Yet he just oozes evil. The character is so incredibly full of himself that we more than approve of whatever brand of justice Bronson chooses to unleash on him.
This is definitely not one for everyone. The Evil That Men Do is relentless in it’s depiction of extremely unpleasant things. But if you’re a fan of Bronson’s brand of justice this is a wild and bloody tale of revenge you have to see to believe.