The Film (3.5/5)
Vigilante is Bill Lustig's follow up to his now classic slasher Maniac. The film tells the story of Eddie Marino (Robert Forster), a factory worker with a house, his wife Vickie (Rutanya Alda), and 3 year old son Scott (Dante Joseph). One day his wife stands up to some members of a street gang that she sees harassing someone on the street. They leave the scene, but end up following her home. The gang breaks into the house, and proceeds to rape, and savagely beat her, and kill their son. Eddie believes in the system, but when the system fails him, he decides to get together with a few friends and get justice the only way they can.
Watching Vigilante I kept thinking about the opening conversation in the Godfather between Vito and Bonasera on the nature of justice. A similar conversation takes place in this film, this time between Fred Williamson's character Nick and Robert Forster's Eddie Marino. In it Williamson suggest that the world has gotten so decrepit, and the system so corrupt that the only true justice is that which you create for yourself. Robert Forster at this point believes in the system, even though his wife has recently been raped, and his young son is dead he still believes that justice will prevail.
It is that conversation that sold me on this movie. I grew up watching Charlie Bronson in numerous Death Wish films (and Death Wish knockoffs ie 10 to Midnight), and I never felt any sort of character development. In this film I expected the same sort of progression, bad thing happens, and then there's action and violence galore. Yes, Vigilante has action and violence, maybe more so than the original Death Wish, but it has a character that is more easily identifiable that Bronson's Paul Kersey. A lot of this rest on the shoulders of Robert Forster who takes a character that could have been your typical one dimensional revenge movie character, and creates a living breathing character, that the viewer can identity with.
Vigilante is also a who's who of exploitation film regulars from Fred Williamson (Warriors of the Lost World, The Inglorious Bastards) to Joe Spinell (Maniac, Starcrash). All of the actors fit their roles quite naturally, and while a lot of this could have been considered clich√© the performances from the cast, and the direction by Lustig definitely elevates this to a whole other level. Like Maniac before it this film is dark and grimy. The soundtrack by Jay Chattaway is absolutely fantastic, and fits the vibe of the film completely. It is up there with Jimmy Page's soundtrack to Death Wish 2 for best vigilante film soundtrack. It's one of few film scores that I would run out and buy on CD if only I could find it.
Blue Underground have exceeded all expectations with their release of Vigilante. Blue Underground has presented Vigilante with a 2:35:1 1080p anamorphic widescreen transfer. This transfer is very filmlike, retaining a nice healthy level of film grain. The black levels are deep, and flesh tones are accurate. The level of detail present here is simply incredible.
Blue Underground has presented a variety of audio options for the film including a 7.1 DTS-HD track a 5.1 Surround Sound track (which was my track of choice), and a variety of Dolby Digital Mono tracks in French, German, and Italian. There are subtitles provided in English, French, Spanish, and Portegeuse. The sound is quite dynamic Jay Chattaway's score pumps from the speakers, and the effects levels are quite good.¬ The only minor complaint is that some of the dialogue is mixed low, so I found myself frequently having to adjust the volume during certain dialogue sequences.
Blue Underground has put together a pretty awesome package for it's release of Vigilante. It kicks off with 2 commentary tracks both featuring Vigilante director and Blue Underground head honcho William Lustig. The first track has him appearing with cast members Robert Forster, Fred Williamson, and Frank Pesce. The second featuers Lustig again this time with the films producer Andrew Garroni. Lustig has always been an ace commentator on his own films (his Maniac commentary is legend), and the tracks here are a mix of informative and entertaining as Lustig and Company discuss various aspects of the production, and influences on the film
The disc is rounded off by 4 trailers, radio, and TV spots. There is also a still gallery, and a promo spot for the film. This promo spot was used to generate interest at the Milan film market prior to going into production. This was my absolute favorite extra on the disc, simply for the text crawl prior to the promo spot that detailed how the spot was produced on such a low budget, and what it achieved for the filmmakers. If you are an aspiring filmmaker, it is simply amazing.
Bill Lustig's Vigilante is a serious bad-ass piece of Vigilante revenge cinema.¬ The grim and gritty direction by Bill Lustig combined with the performances of leads Robert Forster and Fred Williamson elevate this flick above the standard revenge flick. It is definitely in my top 3 Vigilante revenge neck and neck with Death Wish 3. The soundtrack by Jay Chattaway is synth heavy, dated, and bursting with sleazy awesomeness. The audio/video is excellent, maintaining Blue Underground's quality standard yet again. The extras are limited, but are a good mix of interesting and informative.
This is another Blue Underground release that is highly recommended, between this and the July release of Uncle Sam my cinematic appetite is seriously whetted for Bill's debut stroke of horror genius next months Blu-ray release of MANIAC!