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Directed by: William Lustig
Starring: Robert Forster, Fred Williamson, Richard Bright, Joesph Carberry, Don Blakely, Carol Lynley, Willie Colon, Woody Strode, Steve James, Rutanya Alda, and Joe Spinell
Eddie Marino (Forster) is a blue-collar guy who goes to his factory job, then goes to the local dive bar with his friends (Nick, Burke, and Ramon - Williamson, Bright and Carberry, respectively), then comes home to his loving wife (Alda) and son. His simple life is interrupted when a vicious street gang led by the evil Rico (Colon) and Prago (Blakely) invade his home and assault his wife and son. Feeling defenseless against everyone from small-time drug pushers on up, Nick forms a vigilante group because the court system is a corrupt failure and isn’t protecting its citizens. Now crime is running wild so everyday citizens must stand up and fight. Eddie is initially resistant to the idea, but after seeing shyster lawyers like Eisenberg (Spinell) pull the rug out from under good-faith lawyers like his own, Mary Fletcher (Lynley), Eddie snaps and is sent to jail for contempt. It’s while he’s inside that he meets Rake (Strode)...but when he gets out, he decides to join Nick’s group after all and it’s then that the truth that he initially denied comes out: if you want justice, you have to do it yourself.
Why, oh why aren’t there more movies like Vigilante? We will never stop pining for them. Just about everything about Vigilante is awesome. From the second you see the font the opening credits are in, you know the movie is going to be good. The cast is amazing: it’s one of Fred Williamson’s best - he puts a lot of energy into it and gets all the best lines. Plus he’s just so cool. There are moments when he breaks through the top of the coolness thermometer. Joe Spinell is perfectly cast as the sleazy lawyer. He has a small but integral role, as does Steve James. Come to think of it, same for Woody Strode. Robert Forster is always worth watching. Jay Chattaway’s music is superb and ties it all together.
Revenge movies are one of our favorite things to watch, and the gritty NYC locations of the 80’s are simply mesmerizing. The post-Death Wish (1974) cycle of The Exterminator (1980), Vigilante, and The Protector (1985), and, to a certain extent, Exterminator 2 (1984) give an excellent picture of the New York City of the day. It’s simply fascinating, not to mention addictive to watch - if you know any other movies like these, please write in a comment to suggest them!
The Anchor Bay DVD is excellent, with a beautiful widescreen transfer that looks great, and some nice extras. There’s not much more to say, really...for a great movie from a never-to-be-duplicated time period, with a top-notch cast that’s fast-paced and entertaining from start to finish, with a great message...Vigilante rules! What more could you want? If you haven’t already, just buy the DVD today!
Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty
Also check out a review by our buddy, M. Brown from Two Dollar Cinema!