You’ve got to admire a director who has no time for critics and studio bullshit. Michael Winner was one of those directors. He died yesterday, leaving behind a legacy of cathartic, violent cult action movies. He’s best known for his work with the immortal Charles Bronson, but he also collaborated frequently with Oliver Reed and had some successful dramatic films under his belt as well.
Winner and Bronson first worked together with Chato’s Land in 1972. Two years later they made the film that would define both men’s careers: Death Wish. The film, with its sleazy portrayal of NYC and uncompromising revenge plot, was a massive hit with audiences and ignited the vigilante subgenre. Winner also directed Bronson in the classic man vs. the mob thriller The Mechanic and The Stone Killer.
Winner’s work became sporadic after Death Wish III (arguably the best in the series) and he directed his final film, Parting Shots, in 1999. He wrote a popular and outspoken restaurant review column, “Winner’s Dinners,” until December 2012.
Damn, Winner left behind so many classic films with moments cemented in my brain. The chilling final shot of Death Wish. The dialogue-less first 15 minutes of The Mechanic. The terrifying bit in The Sentinel when all the (actual) disfigured people walk through the apartment. Damn, damn, damn.
Rest well, Mr. Winner, and thanks for all the dead punks.- Patrick Cooper