This 1983 vengeance classic made my day!
I’m a sucker for payback/revenge/vigilante films – they’re fucking great. Flicks like Rolling Thunder, I Saw the Devil, I Spit on Your Grave, and the classic Last House on the Left. I could go on with these titles, when you have been wronged there is nothing more inherent than to seek revenge. Today’s latest revenge entry is a little picture called Vigilante directed by William Lustvig (Maniac Cop, Maniac). A story of a group of men who take the law into their own hands when violence escalates in their neighborhood and the police are simply too undermanned to keep the peace.
Starring Robert Forster and the great Fred “The Hammer” Williamson, Vigilante is an ultraviolent picture that oozes anger from the get-go. Forster plays Eddie Marino, a husband and father who works at a small factory with Nick (Williamson) and their buddies Ramon and Burke. Unbeknownst to Eddie, Nick and the guys have formed a vigilante group to take the law into their own hands in the interest of protecting their neighborhood.
After a young woman is assaulted on the roof of her building, the vigilantes locate the assailant with the help of the people in the neighborhood – who fucking love them. Nick and the gang pull up to a scummy street corner and just like the gangs that terrorize their neighborhoods they roll deep and pull his ass off the corner and into their van. Later, as the guys are cooling off in a bar after work, a street cop hints around about a vigilante group who beat a man nearly to death breaking almost every bone in his body. They don’t fuck around.
At a local gas station, Eddie’s wife intervenes when a local gang member assaults an attendant by dousing him in gasoline. The wife smacks the gang member and this starts the train a rolling. The gang members follow her back to her house and after a very long wait, the gang members attack and kill Eddie’s son and viciously attack his wife. They chase the six year old kid down and shoot him point blank with a shotgun – you can now pick your jaw up off the floor.
The gang member at the gas station is identified and taken into custody. On the day of his trial, his shady defense attorney takes a bribe and gets the guy off the hook by pleading guilty to first degree assault and not guilty to homicide thanks to a shitty judge who could care less. The gang member is released with a suspended two year sentence – Eddie completely loses his mind and is slapped with thirty days in jail for being in contempt of court. So now Eddie lost his son, his wife is clinging to life, and hes ass is on its way to Riker’s Island. So the criminal walks free and the victim is thrown in jail – lighting Eddie’s fuse.
Once he is released, shit gets real and Eddie decides to join up with Nick and get his vigilante justice. The third act is just a bloodbath. It’s awesome to watch as Eddie and the gang work their way through the bodies and to the ultimate hit. This movie isn’t perfect, it’s a great 80’s revenge flick but it needed more revenge. When Eddie is sent to prison, they spend too much time focusing on him not getting his ass beaten by some nasty prisoners. I was hoping that they were going to take their time chipping away at the gang and those involved with the injustice, but they just scratch the surface.
In my opinion, the more vengeance the better. I would have loved to see the shady ass lawyer taken out along with the rest of the gang members that are each despicable in their own way. I guess that the filmmaker wanted Eddie to not lower himself to the level of the criminals that he sought, but they killed a little kid, all shall be punished. Fred Williamson is in top form and kicking tons of ass in a great chase scene that could have used a stronger payoff. Vigilante is a blast to watch and a film that you should check out if you’re a fan of revenge films or of Lustvig’s other films.