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e-mail:Smokey X. Digger



198?, Dir. William Lustig

Robert Forster, Fred Williamson

Originally written by Hong Kong Cavalier for the Bad Movie Message Board roundtable, "The Reagan Years." Check out his fine website, The Speakeasy! I command it!!

First of all, let me get two things outta the way:

1.) Fred Williamson kicks ass.

2.) As does the late Woody Strode.

If I were ever to decide to take the law into my own hands, the one man I would want backin' me up would be Mr. Williamson. After seein' interviews with the man (check out the documentary Full Tilt Boogie, about the production of the vampire flick From Dusk Till Dawn for an example of this), I have the distinct impression that he would actually do it.

And (God forbid)....if I should ever have the misfortune to do any kind of federal time on the government's dime, aka The Stonewall Hotel, or, for the layman: get sent to prison ... the only person in existence that I'd want for a "prison buddy" (an older, world weary inmate who would take me under his wing, prevent any kind of shower rape, and dispense words of gruff wisdom) would be the late, lamented Woody Strode. Forget Morgan Freeman ala The Shawshank Redemption ... I want somebody who could hand a fellow inmate his head while stomping a mudhole in his ass. I'm of a fragile disposition, and would need all the help in the form of physical violence that I could get. Woody looked like he was about 125 years old when he did this flick, and he was still the baddest cat around. It's a shame he's gone....

The plot: I won't bore you with details. If you've seen "Death Wish" with Charlie Bronson, you've basically seen this flick. Robert Forster portrays an honest hard-workin' joe, trying to do the best with what he has and what he knows. The world of New York as presented in Vigilante is a rough urban nightmare, somewhere between Taxi Driver and Escape from New York. Street gangs terrorize the populace, and as always, the police are either bought or lazy. Oh yeah...and all the bad guys dress like extras from Assault on Precinct 13 and The Warriors. And what the hell was it about berets? Why is it that every street gang in 1970's / 80's revenge flicks look as if they belong to The Guardian Angels?

To make a long story short: Forster's wife runs afoul of the local leader of her friendly neighborhood streetgang, presented in the form of musician Willie Colon. Colon and his cronies attack wifey at home, while ol' Bob is at work, and in the film's most shocking sequence (IMO), brutally shotgun a child. Needless to say, Forster isn't happy about woman bein' messed with and his son murdered, but bides his time, under the silly belief that here in America, the law always prevails. Obviously, for someone who lives on the mean streets of the Big Apple, Bob must lead a fairly secluded life, to foster succh an irrational delusion.

Well...surprise! He's wrong. The judge and prosecution is bought off, and the gangleader walks free, causin' Bobby to raise a ruckus in his grief and anger that lands him in jail for contempt. After gettin' thrown into the slams, Forster meets up with Strode's character...who takes pity on the grieving man and saves him from bein' gangraped in the showers. Can you say "cameo appearence by an already established actor proven to be a draw in foreign markets"? I knew you could....

Well, after release, I don't think it takes a rocket scientist to figure out that Bob's a little disgruntled. Wonder of wonders, it seems that his faith in the American legal system has been shaken, and he wants an eye for an eye. Good thing his buddy at work, independent film producer/star Fred Williamson, runs the local gang of vigilantes and urban survivalists. Ain't coincidences grand?

He guns down the bad guy. The End. There's some sorta right-wing message in there somewhere, but I was amused to much by the atmosphere of the film to take notice.

And atmosphere it has, by the pound. I haven't seen a film this bleak and cold looking since...well, "Taxi Driver". The flick just chills you to bone looking at it.

Inspired by the one-time popular Italian spaghetti revenge flicks of the 1970's, director Bill Lustig's film is actually quite compelling. Alot of this has to do with the honest portrayal of the lead characters and the aforementioned atmosphere. I found it hard to believe that this was the same man responsible for the recent crapola "Uncle Sam". Plus, Woody Strode kicks ass, if you weren't paying attention.

Highly reccommended for fans of Williamson, Forster, Strode, subscribers to SOLDIER OF FORTUNE, and NRA members everywhere.