I was going to kick myself for not watching WILLIAM (MANIAC) LUSTIG’s VIGILANTE (1983) sooner but I decided to thank the universe for waiting for the exact perfect circumstances to lift the curtain on this prize instead. Don’t sweat the plot- it’s about a guy who believes in the law until justice flips him the bird after his life is demolished, who then decides to take matters into his own hands. Things explode and bad, bad people die in ways they really deserve. See, this is why I can’t get worked up about remakes and sequels; multiple interpretations of the same potent theme are the lifeblood of genre filmmaking. You know this place even if you haven’t been here before.
Two major factors catapult VIGILANTE over its peers. It’s got a fantastic cast, ROBERT FORSTER, CAROL LYNLEY, FRED WILLIAMSON, JOE SPINELL and RUTANYA ALDA (she of AMITYVILLE II and no relation to ALAN-drats!) and a super talented sinfully underrated director. LUSTIG may have a habit of delivering semi-unsatisfactory climaxes but the road to that minor disappointment is paved with major brilliance. He certainly knows how to engage the audience with his characters and he excels at keeping you on edge worried about how far he’ll go next. What’s more, I have to hand it to LUSTIG for his striking and yet never overpowering visual sense. Is it just me? I love his use of color and his penchant for finding strange fluorescent beauty in the blandest of areas. It can’t be accidental, amidst jaw-dropping violence there’s something about VIGILANTE (and MANIAC) that feels like unearthing stray blazing rubies in piles of grey gravel. I’ll throw down some images below but I think that analogy applies to how LUSTIG’s films operate as a whole too. The world may be hopeless, grim and falling apart but if you look close there’s always something shining in the wreckage.