The Gratuitous B-Movie Column 1.08.13 Issue #240: Vigilante (1983)
Posted by Bryan Kristopowitz on 01.08.2013
In this issue I take a look at the classic 1983 revenge flick Vigilante starring Robert Forster and Fred “The Hammer” Williamson and directed by William Lustig, plus a Big Question, three new batches of Things to Watch Out For This Week, a new B-Movie Babe is named, a new Douchebag of the Week is crowned, and more. Check it out.
The Gratuitous B-Movie Column Issue #: Vigilante (1983)
Hello, everyone, and welcome once again to the internets movie review column that isn't interested in having a cheese sandwich at any point during the day or night, The Gratuitous B-Movie Column, and I am your host Bryan Kristopowitz. In this issue, issue number two hundred and forty, I take a look at the classic 1983 revenge flick Vigilante starring Robert Forster and the Fred "The Hammer" Williamson.
Vigilante, directed by the great William Lustig, is easily one of the best early 1980's urban revenge movies ever made. Shockingly not made by the fine folks at Cannon Films, Vigilante stars Robert Forster as Eddie Marino, a air conditioning repair technician and devoted family man who ends up joining a group of vigilantes, led by the badass factory worker Nick (Williamson), after his family is destroyed by a vicious street gang. At first, Marino believes in the judicial system, thinking that, with the evidence against the main perpetrator Rico (Willie Colon) that the thug will be put behind bars forever. However, after watching an asshole judge (Judge Sinclair, brilliantly played by Vincent Beck) plea bargain Rico's sentence down to essentially nothing, Marino flips out in court, shocked that the system "didn't work." For his court room outburst Marino is sent to prison for thirty days, where he almost gets raped in the shower, meets a wise old prison badass (Rake, as played by the Woody Strode), and decides to join Nick's vigilante group. If the system isn't going to work for law abiding citizens and let criminals run rampant, well, the law abiding need to go out and kick some ass.
What's great about Vigilante, and what ultimately sets it apart from most revenge movies, is that while it's sympathetic to the plight of the vigilante group, it really doesn't celebrate what the vigilante group has to do in order to stop crime and whatnot. What Nick and Eddie and Burke (Richard Bright) and Ramon (Joseph Carberry) do is awful stuff that's more sad than anything else. And there's likely going to be a moment in the movie when, while watching the vigilante group do its thing, you're going to say to yourself "Please! Stop! He's learned his lesson!" The beating that Nick gives drug dealer Blueboy, played by Frank Pesce, is my "Stop!" moment.
The movie also doesn't try to explain how or why the judicial system or the cops have lost control of society, something that very few revenge movies do (and do well). We keep hearing about how things used to be, how people were able to sleep with their front door unlocked and how you could walk down the street at night and not get mugged, but no one pinpoints a precise moment where everything went to hell. All the vigilante group really knows is that it has to act now or it will be too late. The movie's political agenda, which could be read as right wing and reactionary, probably had more potency back in the early 1980's, when New York City was seen as a thriving hellhole of gang violence and crime. In 2013, the movie's setting comes off as a kind of dystopian fantasy that doesn't seem plausible. The movie still works, though, because of that dystopian mood set up by director Lustig and writer Richard Vetere. It envelops you as soon as the movie starts and doesn't let up until the movie ends.
Now, the movie does come off as a tad too slow at times. Most of that is due to Lustig's lack of close ups and cutting. He lets scenes play out with very few cuts, which is something you don't see all that often, even back in the 1980's. I wouldn't be surprised to find out that the abundance of middle shots is due to time constraints (you know, getting the movie done). The longer scenes don't kill the movie or anything, but modern audiences will probably complain. I'd also imagine that modern audiences will complain about the prison shower scene featuring Robert Forster's ass. Did we really need to see it so many times? Wouldn't one or two ass shots have been sufficient?
Forster is superb as Eddie Marino. He's basically playing a less charismatic, lower middle class version of Chuck Bronson's Paul Kersey character from Death Wish. Marino doesn't really come alive until he flips out in court, and then he doesn't become focused until he meets Strode's Rake in prison and Rake saves him from being raped. When he shows up on the public handball court, and the awesome music by Jay Chattaway swells as Marino walks towards Nick and his vigilante buddies, you just know that he's going to go ape shit on Rico and anyone else who gets in his way. And the way life works out for Marino will break your heart. In the movies, revenge is usually clean and triumphant. It isn't here. It's depressing.
Williamson gives the performance of his career as Nick. His opening monologue is sad and terrifying, and at no point does he come off as gruff or ridiculous (in other words, he isn't acting in a low budget Italian action movie here). Nick is pissed that it's all come to this, and he's tired of the bullshit he has to put up with every day. When he blows away the corrupt lawyer with the shotgun and has to shoot Rico's girlfriend you'll be scared of him (well, yeah, and when he beats down Blueboy). Just amazing, amazing stuff.
Strode is excellent as Rake. His "You're just a nigger in here" speech in the prison cafeteria, while short, is definitely one of the best explanations of prison ever heard in a movie. And this movie also shows why you don't fuck with Woody Strode in the prison shower. He may have been old back in 1983, but he could still kick your ass from one end of the shower to the other. Motherfucker.
Willie Colon and Don Blakely are exceptionally sleazy as gang leaders Rico and Prago. You hate them as soon as you see them, and you can't wait to see them go down, but there's also sadness there, too, especially when Rico begs for his life. How did it come to this for them? Frank Pesce, who seems to show up in all of Lustig's movies, comes off the same way. He's a drug dealer that just doesn't understand why people are out to kill him. He just doesn't get that what he's doing is wrong.
The only "bad guy" you're likely to feel a bit of sympathy for is Horace the pimp, played by Bo Rucker. He's a pimp and beats women and whatnot, but he's also kind of funny (his "working man" line is hysterical). I'm not sure if I completely buy him as a drug runner, too, but then he's able to pull off the fury front seat in his Cadillac, so maybe he could be a drug runner. Maybe.
The great Joe Spinell, of Maniac fame, shows up as Eisenberg, a scumbag defense attorney that you just want to punch in the face. He oozes sleaze, and his scene in the public bathroom with Prago will make you want to puke (it forces you to pick who is a bigger piece of shit, Eisenberg or Prago. I'm still debating with myself on that). And his scene with Vincent Beck's Judge Sinclair, where Sinclair asks Eisenberg if he can "live with two years" is both nauseating and hilarious. Who in their right mind would give Rico a suspended sentence? Who?
Be on the lookout for the immortal Steve James as a beat cop trying to uphold the law, Randy Jurgensen as a police detective, Richard Bright as Burke, Nick's vigilante pal, and the director Lustig as a man on an elevator. I think I'm going to have to watch the movie again to find him. I think I know which guy is him. I think I do.
Vigilante is a must see revenge movie. It has great performances, a great soundtrack, and a mood that's depressing yet entertaining. How often do you see a movie like that?
See Vigilante as soon as you can. See it, see it, see it.
So what do we have here?
Dead bodies: 5+
Nudity?: Yes. But it isn't all that appealing. For anyone.
Doobage: A scary neighborhood meeting, cigar smoking, stalking, rape, kidnapping, knee to the face, a remote control airplane, talk of a possible family trip to Florida, a football pool, a full serve gas station, not paying for gas, a gasoline bath, face smacking, a station wagon with no hubcaps, baseball bat testing, a home invasion, money stealing, TV smashing, little kid killing, stabbing, a sad funeral, a potential leather sport jacket, a sleazy meeting in a public bathroom, a courtroom meltdown, attack on the handicapped, a foot chase, slow motion jumping from rooftop to rooftop with a possible messed up knee, a serious baseball bat beating, bumper smashing, a sort of wild flip, naked shower attack, pimp beating, shotgun attack, a slow motion shotgun blast to the chest, bed cocaine, floppy tits, bullet to the chest, girlfriend killing, a nasty gang van machine gun attack that ends in a bloody mess, car stealing, a nifty car chase, police car smashing, smashed brains, and an explosion via remote control.
Kim Richards?: Big time.
Gratuitous:Fred "The Hammer" Williamson, Fred "The Hammer" Williamson smoking a cigar and talking about "self preservation," rape, Robert Forster, Robert Forster flying a remote controlled airplane, a football pool, a full serve gas station, Steve James, baseball bat testing, a home invasion, killing a kid with a shotgun, a sad funeral, plea bargaining, Joe Spinell, a scumbag judge, Robert Forster flipping out in court, Robert Forster going to prison, Woody Strode, Frank Pesce, Fred "The Hammer" Williamson chasing Frank Pesce, attack on the handicapped, a serious baseball bat beating, a pimp named Horace, Robert Forster naked in the prison shower, attempted anal rape, Woody Strode beating the shit out of people, slow motion shotgun blast to the gut, floppy tits, slow motion cop killing, a nifty car chase, police car smashing, smashed brains, and an explosion via remote control.
Best lines: "Hey, I don't know about you guys, but me... I've had it up to here. There are some 40-odd homicides a day on our streets. There are over two million illegal guns in this city. Man, that's enough guns to invade a whole damn country with. They shoot a cop in our city without thinking twice about it. Aw, come on. You guys ride the subway. How much more of this grief are we gonna stand for? How many more locks we gotta put on our goddamn doors? Now, we ain't got the police, the prosecutors, the courts or the prisons. I mean, it's over. The books don't balance. We are a statistic. Now, I'm telling' ya, when you can't go to the corner store and buy a pack of cigarettes after dark... because you know the punks and scum are out there on the streets when the sun goes down, and our own government can't protect its own people, then I say this, pal: you got a moral obligation, the right of self-preservation. Now, you can run, you can hide, or you can start to live like human beings again. This is our Waterloo, baby! You want your city back? You gotta take it. Dig it? Take it!," "How we doing?," "Another sound and I'll cut ya!," "How come we never get a case on the ground floor?," "Fill it fast, pendejo," "You punks make me sick!," "Hey, look who's on the tube!," "The law is here," "You ever a victim, Eddie?," "There are better ways to handle these situations," "I want this guy to pay for what he did to my family," "How goes it, brother?," "See you in court, Artemis?," "This is an arraignment, counselor," "There will be no demanding in my courtroom," "All right, fuck off!," "What the fuck is wrong with you you big fucking dope?," "Save some for me, Burke," "What the fuck do you want? You," "They're all fags," "Damn recession. How do they expect a working man to make a goddamn living?," "Dammit! Sonofabitch!," "Have a party," "On your knees!," "Mister T? Who the hell is Mister T?," "Hey, don't you know who I am? Yeah, I know who you are," "I want'em," "Oh, brother, what a mess," "Everybody's a victim. So what?," "You got a problem, chump?," "That guy just stole my fucking car!," and "You killed my son! Fuck him!"
I reviewed another movie titled Vigilante back here. That movie sucked.
The Gratuitous B-Movie Column: The Facebook Page!
Please check out The Gratuitous B-Movie Column Facebook page, which can be seen here. There's not much there at the moment, but, as time goes by, expect to see daily questions and musings and other B-movie hooey. And it would be cool if you "liked" it, too.
- Dredd: I reviewed this movie for this column a few weeks back (check it out again or for the first time here). In general I liked it. I'm interested in seeing it again, as I have a feeling it could "get better" with another viewing. That's my hope, anyway.
- Frankenweenie: I missed this Tim Burton movie when it was in theatres. It didn't do all that well at the box office, but it looked great and I have a feeling that this movie is going to be one of those movies that finds its audience years later. That's the feeling I get at the moment.
- Stolen: Simon West directed this Nicolas Cage movie, which doesn't look too bad. You would think, though, that the re-teaming of star and director of Con Air would count for something. I probably would have gone to see this in a theatre if it played near me.
- House at the End of the Street: Jennifer Lawrence and Elisabeth Shue star in this horror flick that, as I remember it, didn't get much traction at the box office when it came out. Definitely worth a rental based on its cast alone. Will Lawrence continue to make movies like this one if she gets major awards consideration this year for that Bradley Cooper movie she's in?
- Hit & Run:I've heard good things and I've heard bad things about this Dax Shepard vehicle (ha). Everyone seems to like the cast and the acting and whatnot, but apparently the movie isn't quite the frat pack goof off its made out to be in the trailer and that upset some people. Much like House, Hit & Run is definitely worth at least a rental.
The Gratuitous B-Movie Column B-Movie Theme of the Week
And now, the weekly Fearnet update
Fearnet, the only free all horror/thriller On Demand TV network features uncut, uncensored horror flicks from the past and present 24 hours a day, seven days a week, pretty much any time you freaking want them (as long as you still have power, that is). The channel also has behind-the-scenes stuff, trailers, and other cool hooey for you to check out. Check your local cable listings for availability (According to the Fearnetwebsite more and more Time Warner and Cox Cable areas are getting the channel. Be sure to go here to see if Fearnet is coming to your area).
Fearnet also exists as a regular old TV channel. This Fearnet airs horror movies roughly twenty one hours a day (there is a block of infomercials in the morning, usually from 6-9am est). The movies shown do have "commercial breaks" in them, similar to the breaks that currently appear on IFC, but the movies are uncut (blood and boobs and cursing are all intact).
Fearnet's website, fearnet.com, offers free movies, interviews, news, and other behind-the-scenes horror movie nerd stuff, too. Little Witches was on the site last week. Is it still there? Check and see).
The website also features Post Mortem with Mick Garris, a nifty interview show where big, fat Stephen King's favorite director talks with genre legends like John Carpenter, Wes Craven, Roger Corman, and others. It's definitely worth your time.
If you're a Facebook nerd (and, really, today, who isn't?) you can check out the Fearnet fans Facebook page, which can be seen here. There are plenty of people out there interested in Fearnet. Join them. And, as always, thanks to both Mark Lindsey and Mathew Hirsch for info regarding the Fearnet fan movement.
Things to Watch Out For This Week: Part 2
- The Assassins: I'm not sure if this movie is called The Assassins or just simply Assassins, but, really, who the heck cares? It's Chow Yun Fat in a period Chinese kung fu historical epic being a bad ass. Of course I want to watch it.
- Two-Lane Blacktop: This classic 1971 car movie starring James Taylor and Warren goddamn Oates is getting the Criterion Collection treatment here, and that's just awesome. Criterion always kicks ass with its DVDs. You already know that, though, don't you? Of course you do.
- Seal Team Six: The Raid on Osama Bin Laden: This low budget action drama aired on the National Geographic Channel back in November. It didn't get great reviews, but it did come out before Kathryn Bigelow's Bin Laden movie, so it has that going for it. And I think Xzibit is in it, too. That's cool.
- Guns, Girls, and Gambling: You would think that a movie featuring Christian Slater, that douchebag Dane Cook, and Gary Oldman as an Elvis impersonator would get some kind of token theatrical release. I mean, Gary Oldman as an Elvis impersonator? People would line up around the block to see that. The movie didn't, though, and now it's about to hit DVD. It looks ridiculous, sure, but that shouldn't stop you from checking it out. It won't stop me from seeing it at some point, that's for sure.
- A Dangerous Place: This low budget flick looks okay, but I get the feeling that this is going to be one of those movies that seems way longer than it actually is. Those kinds of movies are always tough to sit through, especially when they sort of look promising. I'm hoping I'm wrong about this movie. I really do want it to succeed.
The Big Question: Does the world really need the Esquire channel?
I'm probably a little late on finding out about this but I just read that ComcastNBCUniversal is going to "re-brand" the videogame centric G4 channel into a channel based on men's magazine Esquire sometime in the first quarter of 2013. This is apparently being done to create a television destination for the "metrosexual viewer" with shows that focus on things like men's fashion, nutrition, and other "metrosexual" topics. I was unaware that there was a giant need for this kind of channel, but, hey, the people at ComcastNBCUniversal aren't in the business of not making money, right? Right?
I mean, there is a big, giant need for this kind of channel, isn't there? Am I missing something here?
I probably wouldn't be all that upset about this change if NBC didn't mess up the formerly great Sleuth Channel, turning it into Cloo, which is just USA 2. At least on Sleuth there was a small chance of seeing Knight Rider reruns. The former Sci Fi Channel used to be a good place to catch Knight Rider, but that doesn't seem to happen anymore. Universal has access to hours and hours of old shows. Why not air those instead of endless reruns of Monk and NCIS, shows we can already see on USA and in syndication?
So what do you guys think? Is an Esquire Channel a good idea? Is it something you've been hankering to experience? Or is the elimination of G4 total bullshit?
The Gratuitous B-Movie Column B-Movie Babe of the Week: Rebecca Holden
The Gratuitous B-Movie Column Douchebag of the Week
This week, The Gratuitous B-Movie Column Douchebag of the Week goes to Republican Congressperson Peter King, for claiming that "Turning your back on people who are starving and freezing is not a Republican value." Really, Pete? I know you just said that because your Republican colleagues in the House of Representatives basically told you and everyone else trying to get federal assistance for Superstorm Sandy victims to go fuck yourselves, but you can't possibly be all that shocked that your own party, the party of teabagging "fiscal conservatives," didn't want to pay for the aftermath of a federal disaster.
And since there's a weird, ongoing animosity towards the Northeast in general, I just can't see how your outrage can be seen as all that plausible. I mean, you hang out with these anti-Northeasterners all day. You haven't heard how the Northeast, much like the West Coast, is filled with fags, Jews, and "assorted brown skinned minorities?" Are you listening to your I-pod all the time or something?
Come on, Pete. Cut the crapola. It's ridiculous.
Up next is Time Warner Cable, for eliminating Current from its channel line up as soon as it was announced that Current was being sold to Al Jazeera. I know Current was a "low rated channel" and that TWC threatened at the end of 2012 that it was contemplating eliminating "low rated channels" (the arts channel Ovation is gone), but this whole thing just smacks of low level racism (an Arab news channel? The American people won't stand for it!) and protectionism. Was Time Warner in general worried that Al Jazeera would somehow supplant CNN or something?
And how about a little notice of what's being eliminated before it's actually eliminated? How about an e-mail, a letter, or an automated phone call saying "Current is going away?" Isn't that good customer service? Isn't that what you claim you provide? And if Current and Ovation (and who knows what else) has to go away because they're "low rated channels," how about providing channels people might want to watch, like the movie channel Epix?
Oh, wait. That would be giving people what they want. People clearly don't want Epix. No, they instead want five fucking channels of infomercials.
And then there's President Al Gore, for wanting to sell Current in the first place. Running a progressive news channel was always going to be a tough deal, sure, but if it was making money why get out? Because the deal you set up with Time Warner was being altered? So what? Isn't providing a viable progressive news and opinion service more important?
Ha. Please. And didn't anyone in President Gore's inner circle stop to think that maybe selling out to a network owned by an oil producing state would look kind of, well, hypocritical? What happened to saving the Earth from carbon and whatnot?
And what do you plan on doing with the $100 million you're likely to make from the sale? Are you going to start up another progressive network of some kind?
Disappointing. Not all that surprising, sure, but disappointing nonetheless.
And finally there's ABC late night host Jimmy Kimmel, for going after Jay Leno. Again. Who cares if Jay Leno is a "sell out" (I don't see it) or if he "stole The Tonight Show twice (he didn't, unless Bill Carter is a liar, and I haven't heard anyone say that)? Just do your show and make the audience laugh. Nothing else matters. Or am I missing something?
And by the way, as much as I do like your show, Jimmy, I hope the 11:35pm thing fails and you go back to midnight so Nightline can go back to 11:35. If it ain't broke, why try to fix it?
NASCAR and Indycar thoughts
It was announced last week that Danica Patrick would be competing in at least ten races in the Nationwide Series for 2013, but not with JR Motorsports, the team she drove for in 2012. Instead, Danica will be racing for Turner Scott Motorsports, the team that races exclusively with the Nationwide and Camping World Trucks Series. JR Motorsports will have Kasey Kahne and Brad Sweet racing in the #5 car and Regan Smith in the #7, the car Danica drove last year. Why the change? No one is saying. I do find it odd, though, that Danica isn't with Earnhardt Jr's team anymore. She was fully funded. Kahne is funded, too. But what about Smith? What kind of sponsorship does he have?
The other big Nationwide news involves X-Games star Travis Pastrana running the full 2013 season for Roush Fenway Racing. I thought he had a deal with Michael Waltrip's team, but I guess that team wanted more money. It'll be interesting to see if this arrangement actually lasts a full season.
The Chili Bowl starts tomorrow night. Check out the http://www.chilibowl.com/ for event details and updates on what's happening. Will Kevin Swindell pick up his fourth Chili Bowl trophy, or will someone else show up in victory lane? Will Tony Stewart make the A-Main Saturday night?
Not much going on in the Indycar world at the moment. We still don't have a full roster of drivers for the 2013 season. The Speed Channel claims there will be at least 25 cars for the season opener. I guess we'll see in two months whether or not that's true.
Things to Watch Out For This Week: Part 3
- Sleep Tight: This horror thriller is from one of the guys behind those mega cool [REC] movies, so right there you know that it's going to be, at least, interesting. The trailer is pretty dang creepy, too. Easily a must see.
- Ghoul: Nolan Gould, of Modern Family fame, stars in this Chiller channel original. I missed it when it first aired. Anyone out there see this? Is it as good as it looks?
- The Goode Family: The Complete Series: ABC originally aired this Mike Judge created cartoon but, as I remember it, quickly abandoned it. It isn't as good as Judge's classic King of the Hill, but The Goode Family is worth a look anyway. You'll laugh most of the time. I'm shocked that Adult Swim didn't try to make this a show of its own once ABC told Judge to take a hike.
- Lost Films of Herschell Gordon Lewis: I have no idea if these "lost films" of HGL are any good, but then they're movies from Herschell Gordon Lewis so you have to at least think about checking them out. Isn't that what we all did with Blood Feast?
- Hansel & Gretel: Yet another "mockbuster" from the fine folks at The Asylum. Hopefully this movie, which apparently stars the great Dee Wallace, will actually get released and The Asylum won't get sued by the studio releasing Hansel and Gretel Witch Hunters. Those douchebags at Warner Bros are still suing them over Age of the Hobbits, which is now Clash of Empires. The Asylum changed the name. Please, get over yourselves and move on.
Well, I think that'll be about it for this issue. B-movies rule, always remember that.
If there's anything you want to see reviewed here in this column, feel free to offer a comment below or send me an e-mail. I'm always on the lookout for new stuff to watch.
And don't forget to sign up with disqus if you want to comment on this article and any other 411 article. You know you want to, so just go do it.
Robert Forster- Eddie Marino Fred "The Hammer" Williamson- Nick Richard Bright- Burke Rutanya Alda- Vickie Marino Don Blakely- Prago Joseph Carberry- Ramon Willie Colon- Rico Joe Spinell- Eisenberg Carol Lynley- ADA Mary Fletcher Woody Strode- Rake Vincent Beck- Judge Sinclair Bo Rucker- Horace Frank Pesce- Blueboy Steve James- Patrolman Gibbons Randy Jurgensen- Detective Russo Peter Savage- Thomas Stokes
Directed by William Lustig Screenplay by Richard Vetere