The revenge urban action thriller from the director of Maniac.
William Lustig is the guy responsible for the ultra violent slasher flick Maniac, a reprehensible movie that starred the ultra creepy Joe Spinell as a wacko who liked to do unpleasant things to women. In 1982 Lustig brought Spinell back for the action thriller Vigilante. Also starring Robert Forster (Jackie Brown) and Fred Williamson (From Dusk Till Dawn), Vigilante exacts its revenge on DVD care of Anchor Bay Entertainment (in an unrated "director's cut," no less).
Facts of the Case
New York City has always been a pretty tough place to live. What you don't know is that THEY are growing in number…THEY are waging a war…THEY know where you live…and it's time for YOU to strike back! When a sadistic street gang brutally assaults factor worker Eddie Marino's (Forester) wife and kills their child, it's time for revenge! When the perpetrators are taken before a court, a corrupt judge sets free the men who shattered Eddie's life forever. With his child dead and his wife wanting nothing to do with him, Eddie is forced to seek help from Nick (Williamson), the "leader" of a citizen's mob who wants to put an end to all the killing, drug dealing and rape going on in his city. As Eddie's rage festers, his enemies had better beware—there's a new man on the streets, and he's a VIGILANTE!
Vigilante is a silly little movie. Unrealistic at best, it's filled with performances that truly made me laugh out loud. The film takes place in a city that is filled with evil criminals and seething death on every corner. I don't contest that there are parts of this country where it's not always safe to go out of your home. However, the setting of Vigilante is like the fifth circle of Dante's Inferno. This is a place where gang members can go to a gas station and taunt the attendant and customers in broad daylight without any interference whatsoever. The villains, played by every ethnicity under the sun, are all cackling, evil men who haven't got a moral bone in their body. In other words, way over the top.
The same can't be said for Robert Forester's character. Here is a man that has about two emotions, each one of them only a single degree away from the other. When his wife is battered and his child killed, his anger rivals that of having your luggage lost at an airport. Fred Williamson's character only pops up now and then to say things like "I don't know about you guys, but me…I've had it up to here!" and "You gotta moral obligation, the right of self preservation! Now you can run, you can hide, or we can start to live like human beings again! This is our Waterloo, baby!" You go, Fred! Of course, just to add atmosphere, these speeches and ponderings are said with a huge stogie in hand. The rest of the cast in Vigilante is made up of either women screaming or crying, thugs beating people over the heads with things, or corrupt judges and lawyers (including Spinell).
While it sounds like I'm complaining (which I am), the fact is that all of this is mildly entertaining. I wasn't half as bored as expected, and while Robert Forester's character displays as much emotion as a sweet potato, it's still always fun to see him in a movie (he was easily the best thing about Quentin Tarantino's Jackie Brown). Sure, the performances and action are all pretty hokey. But sometimes hokey is a good thing. In the case of Vigilante, that's just something you're going to have to decide for yourself.
For those of you wondering, the highlight of this movie is seeing Robert Forester nearly raped and beaten naked in a shower, then miraculously saved by an elderly fellow convict. Ah, takes be back to my high school gym class days.
Vigilante is presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. Anchor Bay has done a swell job of cleaning up this print to make it look very clear. While a few of the scenes sometimes looked too dark (especially the night sequences), the overall color patterns and black levels looked solid and on the money. A small amount of grain and edge enhancement popped up in a few areas, though considering the age and budget this can be forgiven.
The audio is presented in DTS ES in English, Dolby Digital 5.1 EX in English, and Dolby 2.0 Surround in French, Italian, and German. The DTS and Dolby 5.1 soundtracks are all decent, if a bit limited. Due to the relatively poor source materials and low budget nature of the film, this wasn't the most expansive soundtrack to begin with. Anchor Bay has polished up the mixes to include a few extra directional effects in both the front and rear speakers, though the bulk of the film still filters through the front of the system. Except for a small amount of distortion, these soundtracks are free of any hiss or imperfections. Also included on this disc are subtitles in Spanish.
Vigilante includes some extra features, the best being a very entertaining commentary track by director William Lustig and stars Robert Forester, Fred Williamson, and Frank Pesce. You know you've got a fairly entertaining commentary on your hand when Williamson blurts out over the introduction of his character: "That's me doin' my thing, preppin' you, gettin' you ready and inspired for this forthcoming movie. Check…it…out!" The participants on this track seem to have a genuine good time watching the movie, and lots of stories and production details are shared throughout.
Also included on this disc are no less than seven theatrical trailers for the film (one US trailer, plus German, Italian, British, French and international trailers), as well as four TV spots, four radio spots, a still gallery with images from the production and marketing campaign, and a promotional reel that was made two months before production for investors to watch.
It's not bad, it's not good. It's Vigilante. This is a swell movie for a cheese ball Saturday night rental. Anchor Bay has, as usual, put forth much more effort than needed on a title of this caliber.
Hung jury…maybe YOU the VIEWER should take matters into your own hands!
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Anchor Bay
• Commentary by Director William Lustig and Actors Fred Williamson, Robert Forester, and Frank Pesce
Review content copyright © 2002 Patrick Naugle; Site design and review layout copyright © 2015 Verdict Partners LLC. All rights reserved.