Vigilante (1983): Breakdown by Rutledal
Death Wish if Charles Bronson was a group of people instead of one person.
The second I saw a movie titled Vigilante in the shelves of the movie store I knew there was no way I was going to leave without it. The cover played heavily on the fact that Quentin Tarantino apparently once said he liked the movie, mentioning his name at least three times more than that of anyone who was actually involved in making the movie. It’s directed by William Lustig (Maniac, Maniac Cop 1-3), and here he does what he does best, painting a grim and uninviting portrait of the streets of New York City. The movie is also packed to the rim with cool actors like Robert Forster, Fred Williamson, Richard Bright, Woody Strode, Steve James and Joe Spinell.
Forster is living a quiet and happy life with his family until his wife one day does the mistake of standing up to a punk that looks (for whatever reason) like Fidel Castro. He rounds up his gang of lowlifes and follows her home. The obligatory rape and killing ensues. Forster comes home to find his son dead and his wife badly wounded. The rotten “justice” system manages to get Forster convicted for contempt of court while the crooks walk away scott free. When he’s released, Forster is a changed man and he joins Fred Williamson’s vigilante group (Earlier in the movie we see Williamson and his men beat-up and kill some two-bit punks). Forster joins to get the men that are behind his son’s death, and since Williamson and the other lads aren’t too picky about their prey, they help him find them.
The movie is easily one of the better vigilante movies to come from the 80’s, but it’s not without it’s flaws. The “origin story” of Robert Forster’s character drags on a little too long, taking over an hour before he starts his quest for revenge, and by then there’s less than 20 minutes left of the movie. While the final act manages to deliver a (small) shootout, a gundown, slow-motion deaths, a car chase and an explosion, the ending still seems rushed. It feels like there is more story to tell and ultimately it feels somewhat disappointing. But despite this lackluster ending, the movie is very good and has no problem standing up against other vigilante movies like The Exterminator and the Death Wish sequels. A recommended view for fans for vigilante movies.
[HOW BAD-ASS ARE THE MAIN CHARACTERS?]
Robert Forster is Eddie Marino
In the first half of the movie Eddie isn’t exactly badass. When he comes out of jail, however, it’s a different story. He has become a man who takes the law into his own hands, a man who doesn’t hesitate to kill the bad guys. But best of all, he has become a certified badass motherfucker.
Fred Williamson is Nick
He is Fred fucking Williamson, what more do you need? The Hammer is, in my opinion, the best and baddest motherfucker to come from the blaxploitation wave. If you really need more the man runs a vigilante group on his spare time, he takes crap from nobody, and he takes time to help a man in a wheelchair while chasing a criminal. He’s not only cool, but also kind.
[THE BODY COUNT: 9 AND A COUPLE UNCONFIRMED]
Various thugs kills 3, and so do both Forster and Williamson. The unconfirmed includes a woman who gets raped and never seen again and a man who is described as being beaten to a pulp, but he is never confirmed dead or alive.
[MOST SATISFYING ASS-KICKING]
In prison there is a big guy who cruising for some ass, prison style. He sneaks up on Eddie, who is alone in the showers, but Eddie ain’t gonna go down with out a fight (pun very much intended). It looks like Eddie is losing outright when out of nowhere, Woody Strode comes along and beats the tar out of both men. You know, to be fair.
[DUDESWEAT AND MACHISMO]
While it never goes as far as rape, the prison shower scenes contains a lot of man ass. Oh yeah.
[EXPLOITATION AND MISOGYNY]
It has the usual vigilante movie attitude towards women. If they aren’t getting raped or killed they’re useless.
[EPIC MOMENT AND BEST ONE-LINER]
Some may argue that it should be the car chase at the end is the film’s epic moment, but to me its right after Robert Forster has committed his first kill. A woman comes out of the bathroom with a gun and shoots one of the members of the vigilante group. In the blink of eye Fred Williamson spins around, pulls his gun and blows her right across the room. Yeah. She literally flies ACROSS THE ENTIRE ROOM.
Nick has just spent the day tracking down the local drug lord and finally confronts him.
Drug Lord: “Hey, don’t you know who I am?”
Nick: “Yeah, I know who you are.”
Nick’s Shotgun: “BAM!”
[THE MORAL OF THE STORY]
If you want something done you better do it yourself, because the system is rotten and corrupt.
[THE CHECKLIST: 14 outta 25]
[X] Athlete(s) Turned “Actor” [Fred Williamson]
[ ] Clinging To The Outside Of A Moving Vehicle
[X] Crotch Attack
[ ] Dialogue Telling Us How Bad-Ass The Main Character(s) Is/Are
[ ] Ending Featuring An Ambulance, A Blanket or A Towel
[X] Giant Explosion(s)
[X] Heavy Artillery
[ ] Improvised Weapon(s)
[ ] Macho Mode(s) Of Transportation
[ ] Main Character Sports Facial Accessory(s)
[ ] Manly Embrace(s)
[X] Notorious Stunt-Man Sighting
[ ] Passage(s) Of Time Via Montage
[ ] Politically Fueled Plot Point(s)
[ ] Senseless Destruction Of Property
[X] Shoot Out(s) and/or Sword Fight(s)
[X] Slow-Motion Finishing Move(s)/Death(s)
[X] Stupid Authoritative Figure(s)
[X] Substance Usage and/or Abuse
[ ] Tis The Season
[X] Torture Sequence(s)
[X] Unnecessary Sequel [Il cittadino si ribella]
[X] Vehicle Chase(s)
[X] Vigilante Justice