Charles Bronson Will Slug You Now

This six-film salute to Walter Hill packs a wallop

Though he had his biggest hits in the ’80s with big action-comedy flicks like 48 Hrs. and Red Heat, writer-director Walter Hill started out as a ’70s auteur. His 1975 debut, Hard Times, is a tough, pared-down chapter of life from the Great Depression. As a laconic, bare-knuckle street fighter with a soft spot for cats, Bronson is a marvel of coiled acting economy; he makes everyone else in the film look like a shameless ham. (But then he’s got the mouthy James Coburn and word-drunk Strother Martin in his corner, so go figure.) Fresh off the success of Death Wish, Bronson (1921–2003) was an unlikely, late-blooming star; here, at 54, he looks far tougher than the HGH-infused Stallone in Rocky Balboa, and he’s a far better actor to boot. His quiet brawler lives by a typical—for all of Hill’s films—masculine code, which he sums up nicely when asked by a hooker (Bronson’s wife, Jill Ireland) why he fights. His reply: “I don’t look past the next bend in the road.” This week’s double feature includes the underrated The Driver (see film calendar) and runs Fri., Jan. 18–Thurs., Jan. 24. Series continues through Thurs., Feb. 7. (PG) Grand Illusion, 1403 N. E. 50th St., 523-3935, $5-$8. 7 p.m. BRIAN MILLER

Fri., Jan. 18, 7 p.m., 2008

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