Black Sunday (1977)

Genres - Action  |   Sub-Genres - Action Thriller  |   Release Date - Apr 1, 1977 (USA - Unknown)  |   Run Time - 145 min.  |   Countries - United States  |   MPAA Rating - R
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Review by Donald Guarisco

This slick yet brutal thriller has aged surprisingly well. Black Sunday remains fresh today because it plausibly presents a world where the difference between heroes and villains is minimal; although Kabokov is the story's nominal good guy, he is cold, obsessive and every bit as capable of amoral behavior as his terrorist prey. Robert Shaw appropriately gives the character a reserved, icy facade that periodically slips to let out a bit of humor, regret, or rage. Black Sunday is even more daring in the way it dimensionalizes its antagonists; although Dahlia and Lander set out to commit mass murder, they are painted as misguided souls pushed to the brink by a cruel, unsympathetic world. Marthe Keller and Bruce Dern bring out the wounded humanity lurking beneath these characters' brutal exteriors; Keller is believably steely as a woman who coolly and calculatingly navigates her way through a man's world, and Dern throws out all the stops, creating a character who can shift from amusingly batty to terrifying to pitiful in the same moment. Black Sunday further benefits from a smart script that uses the grim psychology of these characters to flesh out its oft-fantastic plot and tight direction from paranoiac-thriller mastermind John Frankenheimer. His trademark combination of dark humor and gritty action shines in the film's set pieces, especially during a brutal shoot-out on the streets of Miami Beach and the epic Super Bowl finale, which is disturbingly credible despite its disaster-movie conceit. All these elements add up to a thriller that remains quite potent, thanks to its unusual but effective mix of anti-political cynicism and stylish thrills.