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Vigilante - Blue Underground Print E-mail
User Rating: / 4
Written by Richard Taylor   
Tuesday, 14 April 2015
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AKA: Street Gang, Street Fighters, Streetfighters, Os Vigilantes, Yn soturit, Ekdikites ektos nomou, Oi mahites tou nomou, Εκδικητές εκτός Νόμου.

Directed by:
William Lustig
Written by:
Richard Vetere
Produced by:
Andrew W. Garroni, William Lustig
Cinematography by:
James Lemmo
Editing by:
Larry Marinelli
Music by:
Jay Chattaway
Special Effects by:
Cecilia Verardi
Robert Forster, Fred Williamson, Joe Spinell, Woody Strode, Frank Pesce, Richard Bright, Rutanya Alda
1h 30min

Studio: Magnum Motion Pictures
Distributor: Vestron Video, Blue Underground

William Lustig made some very noteworthy films. The ones that especially come to mind are Maniac and Maniac Cop (not related movies of course). Vigilante is probably one of the best examples of Lustig reaching outside the horror genre and showing his love and paying his homage to the spaghetti crime/action films which were so prevalent in the 70's -- a whole Italian sub-genre which this reviewer has admittedly yet to scratch the surface with. I have viewed a couple mentionable films such as Street Law with Franco Nero and Lucio Fulci's Contraband, but as a whole its a genre I'm not completely familiar with. Upon doing a bit of half-assed research and reading other reviews, Vigilante was automatically coined as a Death Wish rip off. I feel it was pegged wrongly in this instance. Vigilante is a gritty urban tale of revenge but it cannot be labeled as a direct copycat of the Charles Bronson classic. Vigilante is more of a blue collar man's revenge story. Way more gritty, dirty and sleazy to top it off.

Vigilante has an energy or aura to it, right from beginning to end, with a great cult feel and the cast are all top notch genre veterans. Robert Forrester (Mulholland Drive) has the lead role as Eddie Marino but usually takes a backseat to the over the top acting antics of Fred Williamson (The Inglorious Bastards) in a larger than life roll as Nick. Other honorable mentions are Joe Spinell (Maniac) as a crooked lawyer, Woody Strode (Once Upon a Time in the West) as an inmate that helps Forrester's character, Frank Pesce (Beverly Hills Cop) plays a sleazy drug pusher and even Steve James from The Exterminator and American Ninja films plays a typical stereotypical cop.

Nick (Fred Williamson) and two of his factory co-workers, Burke and Ramon, have formed a vigilante group or "goon squad" as referred to by Steve Jame's cop character in one scene. Nick and company, patrol their neighbourhood and put things right that the police would normally let go, file a report and turn a blind eye to. Another co-worker of theirs named Eddie (Forrester) doesn't believe in the vigilante idea either, until he winds up on the wrong end of the justice system.

One day, Eddie's wife steps in to save a gas station attendant from being hurt by a gang of thugs, in doing so she drops her purse and the thugs follow her and her son to their home. The gang brutally maim her and kill their son. Eddie is devastated, goes to court and the gang member gets off easily by the help of crooked lawyer, Joe Spinell, in a great short but greasy role. Forrester's character has a major outburst in court, due to the verdict and the equally detestable judge holds him in contempt. After this happens this is where the movie goes awry for me. I'm not a genius, nor am I completely familiar with the justice system but does a judge usually send a completely innocent man who was obviously stricken with grief and rage by the outcome with such a crass verdict, get put in general population in prison due to contempt of court? It just seems a bit harsh to me. Anyways, without giving away every detail of the movie, Eddie eventually gets out and his wife wants nothing to do with him and surely doesn't want to return to their home. Grasping at straws and selling his home, he seeks the aid of Nick to dispatch the gang.

Williamson's character makes the movie. His over the top speeches and mannerisms make him likable as hell, with quotes like "I don't know about you, but I've had it up to here!" In a particular and rather spectacular chase scene on foot, Williamson's character is after a dope pusher played by Frank Pesce. The music and set up of this chase scene alone is a cult classic, everything works well. Vigilante is cheesy and its flawed but its fun, entertaining and it makes you want to stand up and fight for your rights. It has you cheering for the good guys. You want Forrester, the straight laced blue collar working man to make the scumbag punks pay and it delivers quite the heavy anti-authority message of taking the law into your own hands. Director Lustig was said to be honored when they released Vigilante in Italy under the title Street Law 2. Once he saw this, he knew his job had been done. It was also said that Lustig attended a screening and at the end everyone stood up and applauded the movie. It's noted as a grindhouse action favourite.



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