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Family of Cops III

He's very much the old-timer now. He's got a gut. His cheeks are puffy. But make no mistake, Charles Bronson is still Charles Bronson. That squinty-eyed glint that leaves strong men quaking is still there, and you don't find yourself laughing that a man Bronson's age could still be a cop like we did with, say, Buddy Ebsen. That role reprisal is sufficient to make this third link in the "Family of Cops" movie chain moderately compelling.

With:
Inspector Paul Fein - Charles Bronson Ben Fein - Joe Penny Eddie Fein - Sebastian Spence Kate Fein - Barbara Williams Jackie Fein - Nicole deBoer Anne Meyers - Kim Weeks Melanie Fein - Cynthia Belliveau Coello - Chris Leavins William Warden - Jan Filips Caroline - Tori Higginson Fran - Sabrina Grdevich Tali - Heather Gordon Maya - Stephanie McClellan Evan Chandler - Greg Spottiswood

He’s very much the old-timer now. He’s got a gut. His cheeks are puffy. But make no mistake, Charles Bronson is still Charles Bronson. That squinty-eyed glint that leaves strong men quaking is still there, and you don’t find yourself laughing that a man Bronson’s age could still be a cop like we did with, say, Buddy Ebsen. That role reprisal is sufficient to make this third link in the “Family of Cops” movie chain moderately compelling.

Anyone who makes fun of Bronson or his projects does so at his or her peril.

It ain’t gonna be me.

On the other hand, it’s easy to emerge from watching this film not completely certain of what the point was. Perhaps it’s this: Our nation can no longer tolerate the hoarding and smoking of Cuban cigars. It’s a scourge on the land.

Somebody must pay.

Actually, “Family of Cops III” has grown into an action-drama franchise for CBS because: 1. Bronson, Mr. Dirty Dozen and Death Wish himself, still commands attention; and 2. There is somehow comfort in the knowledge that cops have screwed-up lives. You know, a pox on their house for giving us that speeding ticket.

Here, Joel Blasberg’s serviceable teleplay again casts Bronson as Inspector Paul Fein of the Milwaukee PD and the patriarch of a clan that likes to do things its own way. Daughter Jackie (Nicole deBoer) is a confirmed free-spirit. Hunky cop son Eddie (Sebastian Spence) is a world-class brooder.

Responsible policeman son Ben (strong work from Joe Penny) has a thing for control. And Kate (Barbara Williams), a public defender, won’t marry just anybody who impregnates her. So now she faces a future as a single mother.

It’s probably better this way for Kate, however. I mean, do you wanna be the guy who knocks up one of Charles Bronson’s daughters and then asks for his blessing?

The A-story here is legitimately intriguing, involving the murders of several members of a filthy-rich family of bankers. The B-story involves Bronson’s alter ego Inspector Fein and his imminent promotion to Milwaukee police chief, which unravels amid a frenzy of bullets, cop corruption and political graft.

The usual stuff. Nice twist at the end.

Sheldon Larry’s direction is taut and smooth, keeping together a film that is a cut above the norm when it doesn’t bog down in sudsy sentiment. But mainly, this is a vehicle for Bronson. And while he can’t effectively drive it by himself anymore, he’s still a potent force behind that wheel.

And by the way, about the cigars … never mind.

Tech credits are swell.

Family of Cops III

CBS; Tues. Jan. 12, 9 p.m.

Production: Filmed in Toronto, Canada by Alliance Atlantis Communications. Executive producer, Douglas S. Cramer; producer, Nicholas J. Gray; director, Sheldon Larry; writer, Joel Blasberg.

Crew: Camera, Bert Dunk; production designer, James McAteer; editor, James Bredin; music, Fred Mollin; sound, Brian Avery; casting, Gail Carr. Running time: 2 HOURS.

With: Inspector Paul Fein - Charles Bronson Ben Fein - Joe Penny Eddie Fein - Sebastian Spence Kate Fein - Barbara Williams Jackie Fein - Nicole deBoer Anne Meyers - Kim Weeks Melanie Fein - Cynthia Belliveau Coello - Chris Leavins William Warden - Jan Filips Caroline - Tori Higginson Fran - Sabrina Grdevich Tali - Heather Gordon Maya - Stephanie McClellan Evan Chandler - Greg Spottiswood

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