I must admit, I have always been a bit of a sucker for vengeance-themed movies.

I’m not sure if that was down to watching the ultra-violent Death Wish 2 when I was a kid back in the day, but there’s just something about seeing someone take to the streets to dispense some justice that gets my juices flowing.

From the gun-toting nun in Abel Ferrara’s Ms 45, through to the likes of Death Sentence and Law Abiding Citizen, there has been plenty to get one’s teeth into.

Which is probably why I looked forward to this offering when stumbling across it – after all, throw in ‘Maniac’ director William Lustig, hard-nosed actor Robert Forster and the promise of in-your-face violence and I was sold.

But, it is my sad duty to announce that not only does Vigilante fail to deliver the goods, at times it is also pretty crap.

The premise is solid enough, if something we have seen before.

Forster plays Eddie Marino, a hard-working New York factory man, happily married with a wife and young son.

Forster’s wife seems to be the upstanding type, and she decides to step in when a good of hoodlums start roughing up a gas station attendant, which unsurprisingly pisses them off.

Wouldn’t you know, they then decide to follow the wife and son home and stage a home invasion, stabbing her and gunning down the toddler in cold blood.

Forster, who was out drinking with his work buddies at the time, is understandably distraught, and is even more so when the gang leader is spared jail at his trial due to a technicality.

Even more ridiculous (and this is never properly explained), Forster himself winds up in the slammer after letting his emotions get the better of him in court.

Having been pushed to the edge, it is little surprise that when he is released, Forster is eager to team up with a gang of vigilantes led by the inimitable Fred Williamson and set about wiping out those that caused him so much pain.

That all sounds good I know, but trust me if you sit through this you will be disappointed more than anything else.

My first impression, and one that I returned to repeatedly throughout, was that there simply must be a longer cut of this somewhere – either that or the film was butchered during the editing process.

Far too many things happen without any real explanation – Forster being sent to prison just being the prime example.

We also get a cop character who drifts in and out of the film and then meets a sticky end in a blazing shootout that has no set-up or reasoning, a wise old owl in prison who decides to put his own life on the line to help Forster (again with no real motive) and the fact that Forster seems happy to target the judge, but not the slimy lawyer who eagerly exploited the loophole in the first place (incidentally played by Lustig veteran Joe Spinell).

And then there is the violence, an uneasy mix that veers wildly in tone from borderline slapstick (with a synth soundtrack to match) to slo-mo gunshot blasts with blood spraying the screen.

Forster is fine enough, and the fact the wife shuns him after the incident adds a nice layer of emotion, but the other characters are pure cartoon creations – especially the gang members.

There is still some entertainment to be had here, and Lustig produces a few nice touches and sequences that showcase the grimy effort this should have been, but Vigilante is nothing more than a misfire overall.

About The Author

Simon Fitzjohn

Simon is a journalism tutor in London, who also just happens to be a movie fanatic, with a craving for the darker side of cinema. He has written two books, one on the horror films of director Bob Clark (2014) and the other on the history of the character Norman Bates (2015). His third book, on the work of British exploitation director Pete Walker, is due in 2017.