Vigilante (1983)

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.

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Del Camino
Del Camino(@fb100003480571801)
9 years ago

I still remember the first time I saw Vigilante. Then again, it’s hard to forget a shower scene with Robert Forster and Woody Strode.

9 years ago

You had me at Rutanya. I can’t explain it but that woman just looks right in every movie. She never takes a bad screenshot (you can’t miss her in the screenshot lineup you have here) and she’s taylor-made for anything she pops up in.

Flynn Stephen
Flynn Stephen(@fb1592447529)
9 years ago

I absolutely loved this movie. I had been blown away by Maniac only a short while before I saw this and William Lustig instantly became one of my favorite directors. I’m a sucker for anything set in New York in the 70’s and 80’s and revenge films so it fit my tastes like a glove. I love the grimy sleazy look Lustig gets in all his movies, perfection.

Amanda By Night
Amanda By Night(@amanda-by-night)
9 years ago

While I have always liked Vigilante, it wasn’t until I saw it in the theater a few years ago that I was truly blown away (ha!). Amazing film, and I agree, there’s a nice visual style applied to it (and the soundtrack!).

But mostly I just logged on to comment to thank you for the picture of a nekkid Forster cowering in the shower. Mmmm. 🙂 Love that man.

9 years ago

I’ve not seen this one yet, but will make an effort to soon! I just wanted to mention the film The Exterminator which came out a few years previous to this and deals with a similar topic!