• Murphy’s Law



    Released by: Twilight Time
    Released on: September 13th, 2016.
    Director: J. Lee Thompson
    Cast: Charles Bronson, Carrie Snodgrass, Kathleen Wilhoite, Angel Tompkins
    Year: 1986
    Purchase From Screen Archives

    The Movie:

    J. Lee Thompson and Charles Bronson made a lot of movies together and if Murphy’s Law isn’t the best of their many collaborations, a lot of them produced by the mighty Cannon Films, it’s a damn fine cop thriller regardless.

    Joan Freeman (Carrie Snodgress) has just been released from a mental hospital after spending years away from society, locked away for a murder she committed some time ago. Now that she’s a free woman, her first order is business is payback. Before you know it, Ben Wilcove (Bill Henderson), an ex-cop who helped to bring her in, and a man named Kellerman (Jerome Thor), the judge who locked her away are dead. That leaves one of the other cops who had a hand in her conviction, a tough guy named Jack Murphy (Charles Bronson). She murders his ex-wife Jan (Angel Tompkins) and her current flame and makes him look like the culprit for her death, and the others.

    The cops come and get him. Jack is brought in and, by the power of movie magic, is handcuffed to Arabella McGee (Kathleen Wilhoite), a young woman who was just busted for trying to jack his car. Jack, being quite upset about all of this, breaks out but with no other option he has to bring Arabella along with him. The cops figure she must be in on it and soon enough, they’re on the run trying to catch Freeman and clear their names. This would be difficult under any circumstances but the fact that Jack really doesn’t like mouthy Arabella makes it even tougher.

    There are a lot of unnecessary plot twists here and a few rather massive logic gaps, but none of that takes away from the films’ entertainment value. We don’t come to a movie like this for realism, we come to it for escapism and judged on that level, Murphy’s Law is pretty fun. The dynamic between Bronson and Wilhoite is frequently funny even when the movie is dealing in some decidedly dark content, and they have an interesting rapport together. He’s tough, surly and stone faced in the way that Bronson is perpetually tough, surly and stone faced in so many of his picture. It’s a fairly clichéd oil and water scenario but that doesn’t mean it isn’t fun to watch. Predictable as the basic idea behind it is, it works. And then there’s Carrie Snodgress, an unlikely casting choice for a character that is basically a serial killer but she makes it work. She might be small in stature but she doesn’t lack in screen presence. The fact that the movie has supporting roles from Lawrence Tierney, the beautiful Angel Tompkins and Bill Henderson doesn’t hurt things either.

    Thompson paces the movie well. It’s workmanlike in its cinematography but no less effective for it. There’s a gritty vibe to the movie that serves it well and the score composed for the film is pretty solid too. If tough, gritty cop thrillers are your bag, this one will cure what ails you and then some. Throw logic and common sense out the window and enjoy!

    Video/Audio/Extras:

    Twilight Time presents Murphy’s Law on Blu-ray in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer framed at 1.85.1 that, generally, looks really good. Detail is much improved over the DVD release from a few years ago and color reproduction feels more natural here without looking tweaked or oversaturated. The film is as grainy as you’d want it to be but not to the point of detriment and aside from a few tiny white specks here and there, you won’t find much in the way of actual print damage to complain about at all. Black levels are nice and solid while skin tones look nice and natural. There isn’t any evidence of any noise reduction having been applied here, nor are there any issues with edge enhancement or compression artifacts.

    The English DTS-HD 2.0 Mono track on this disc is also fine. The score sounds good, the dialogue is easy to understand the levels are properly balanced. There are no issues with hiss or distortion and everything comes through cleanly and clearly. As this is an older mono mix you obviously can’t really expect much in the way of channel separation or fancy surround action but for what it is, this older single channel tracks sounds just fine. No alternate language options or subtitles are provided.

    Extras are highlighted by a commentary track that features actress Kathleen Wilhoitem moderated by Twilight Time’s Nick Redman. This is quite an active talk, with Wilhoitem talking about what it was like on set, working alongside Bronson and Thompson and her thoughts on both her character and the film itself. She also talks about how she got into acting, some of the work that she’s done on both stage and screen over the years and quite a bit more. This is an informative and interesting track that fans should certainly appreciate.

    Aside from that we get the film’s isolated score in DTS-HD format, a theatrical trailer for the film, menus and chapter selection. Inside the clear keepcase is an insert booklet that once again contains some insightful liner notes from writer Julie Kirgo. She notes how the rock solid performance from Bronson anchors the film, what makes the film’s villain different from similar pictures, and what makes some of the film’s more memorable moments stand out. Some stills from the film and original one sheet art are included in the booklet as well.

    The Final Word:

    Murphy’s Law holds up well. It might be a bit predictable but Bronson is in fine form here, playing quite perfectly an aging man that you simply would not want to mess with! Twilight Time brings this picture to Blu-ray in very fine form with an excellent transfer, fine audio and a few extras highlighted by a genuinely engaging audio commentary. Recommended!

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!