Murphy's Law (film)

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Murphy's Law
Murphys law 1986.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by J. Lee Thompson
Written by Gail Morgan Hickman
Produced byPancho Kohner
CinematographyAlex Phillips Jr.
Edited byPeter Lee-Thompson
Charles Simmons
Music byMarc Donahue
Valentine McCallum
Distributed by Cannon Films
Release date
  • April 18, 1986 (1986-04-18)(United States)
Running time
100 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$8 million [1]
Box office$9,947,631 (USA) [1]

Murphy's Law is a 1986 American neo-noir [2] action thriller film directed by J. Lee Thompson from a screenplay by Gail Morgan Hickman. It was released by Cannon Films to the United States on April 18, 1986. The film stars Charles Bronson and Kathleen Wilhoite in lead roles with a supporting cast that includes Carrie Snodgress, Robert F. Lyons, and Richard Romanus. The film marks the sixth collaboration between Bronson and director J. Lee Thompson (following 1976's St. Ives , 1977's The White Buffalo , 1980's Caboblanco , 1983's 10 to Midnight , and 1984's The Evil That Men Do ).



Jack Murphy (Bronson), a hardened, antisocial alcoholic LAPD detective, frequently escapes the harsh reality that his ex-wife (Angel Tompkins) has become a stripper and his career is going nowhere by drinking. His world is turned upside down, however, when he is framed by ex-convict Joan Freeman (Carrie Snodgress) for putting her in prison earlier in his career.

Freeman murders the detective's ex-wife and her boyfriend and begins killing off his associates while framing him for the crimes. The same police force he works for places him under arrest with Arabella McGee (Kathleen Wilhoite), a foul-mouthed petty thief he locked away. Murphy escapes from jail while still handcuffed to McGee and they pursue the real killer. While in pursuit of Freeman, who has managed to kill all of those on her hit list save Murphy, Arabella is kidnapped by Freeman and taken to the building where she was first arrested by Murphy. Murphy calls for reinforcements and is met with skepticism, unaware that the detective he notified, Ed Reineke, is a mole working for mob boss Vincenzo. Vincenzo is seeking vengeance against Murphy for the latter killing his brother earlier in the film. Murphy heads attempts to rescue Arabella, but is ambushed by Freeman. Meanwhile, Arabella is bound and gagged at the bottom of an elevator shaft. Reineke trains his gun on Murphy. Freeman quickly dispatches Reineke with an arrow. Unaware of what has transpired, Vincenzo and his two bodyguards enter the building to exact their vengeance. Murphy easily dispatches the bodyguards before goading Vincenzo into trying to kill him. Vincenzo attacks Murphy but Murphy shoots him dead. Freeman sends the elevator down in an attempt to kill Arabella. Murphy saves her in the nick of time. But Freeman fires an arrow into Arabella's back, goading Murphy into a confrontation. She attacks Murphy with an axe, wounds him, and he knocks her over the railing of the staircase on the top floor. She manages to take hold of the axe wedged in the railing. She tries to get Murphy to help her, but he lets her fall to her death. Murphy is loaded into the back of an ambulance with a still-living Arabella, and they are taken to the hospital.



The film was photographed by Alex Phillips Jr.


Murphy's Law includes music by Marc Donahue and Valentine McCallum.


Critical response

Variety gave a mixed review of Murphy's Law, referring to the film as a "very violent urban crime meller, is tiresome but too filled with extreme incident to be boring." [3] The New York Times described the film's plot as "flimsy" and noted that "it seems we're meant to be drawn into this nonexistent story. Yet there's nothing, not even the obligatory injustice done to Jack Murphy, that gives the movie even the pretense of emotional power or intrigue." [4]

Online film database Allmovie gave the film one and a half stars out of five, describing it as an "often silly but fitfully amusing potboiler [that] is one of the better Charles Bronson vehicles from his 1980s era." [5]

External sources

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  1. 1 2 Andrew Yule, Hollywood a Go-Go: The True Story of the Cannon Film Empire, Sphere Books, 1987 p189
  2. Silver, Alain; Ward, Elizabeth; eds. (1992). Film Noir: An Encyclopedic Reference to the American Style (3rd ed.). Woodstock, New York: The Overlook Press. ISBN   0-87951-479-5
  3. "Review: 'Murphy's Law'". Variety . December 31, 1985. Retrieved December 19, 2023.
  4. James, Caryn (April 18, 1986). "Screen: Murphy's Law (1986)". New York Times . Retrieved September 28, 2014.
  5. Guarisco, Donald. "Murphy's Law". All Media Guide . Retrieved December 19, 2023.