(director: Walter Hill; screenwriters: Bryan Gindorff, Bruce Hentsell; cinematographer: Philip Lathrop; editor: Roger Spottiswoode; music: Barry De Vorzon; cast: Charles Bronson (Chaney), James Coburn (Speed), Jill Ireland (Lucy Simpson), Robert Tessier (Jim Henry), Strother Martin (Poe), Maggie Blye (Gayleen), Bruce Glover (Doty), Frank McRae (Hammerman), Michael McGuire (Chick Gandil), Felice Orlandi (loanshark); Runtime: 92; MPAA Rating: PG; producer: Lawrence Gordon; New Line Home Entertainment/Columbia; 1975)

“Evocatively atmospheric.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

The directorial debut of Walter Hill (“Bullet to the Head”/”Broken Trail”/”Undisputed”), who finely directs this snappy action pic. It’s written by Bryan Gindorff and Bruce Hentsell.

Chaney (Charles Bronson) is the aging unsmiling laconic street fighter, a mysterious drifter. He comes to New Orleans during the Depression on a freight train. He soon finds he can make decent bread fighting in the street in bare knuckle matches that are bet on. Speed (James Coburn) is a shady charmer, who becomes Chaney’s gambler fight manager. The local whore, Lucy (Jill Ireland, Bronson’s wife), is a down-and-out girl, who has a brief fling with Chaney. Poe (Strother Martin) is irresistible as a drug addict and unlicensed medic, who pals around with Chaney and Speed. Michael McGuire is convincing as the big-time gambler named Chick Gandil. He’s speed’s rival, and their stable of fighters mix it up with regular betting bouts. Chick’s top man is the bruiser Jim Henry (Robert Tessier), who faces Chaney in the fight of the 1930s.

It’s evocatively atmospheric, has great boxing sequences, provides a perfect character for Bronson to inhabit and does well when it sticks to keeping its story grounded on its sympathetic noir hero. But when it wanders off in other directions and offers undeveloped sub-plots, the melodrama goes down as if has a glass jaw.

REVIEWED ON 12/28/2015 GRADE: B-