Director William Lustig’s “Vigilante” is a lot like “Death Wish” on steroids. It’s a bonafide mix of a prison movie, it’s a drama about PTSD, a parable about political corruption, and a surefire revenge thriller to the very end. While the aforementioned ends on a twisted note, “Vigilante” is something of a contradiction. It seems to celebrate the idea of vigilante justice and revenge, but it ends on such a low, bleak note where our hero gets his vindication but literally has nothing left in his life.
New York City, factory worker Eddie Marino is alerted by his co-workers about their forming of a vigilante group to clean up the terror in the city. After a confrontation with a local gang syndicate’s leader (Salsa icon Willie Colón), Eddie’s wife is attacked by the gang in their home; they proceed to murder their toddler son and nearly kill her. Eddie is outraged when he learns the gang members might just get off with a light sentence and his contempt puts him in prison. Now released, he teams up with the vigilantes, all of whom begin tracking down and murdering the men that ruined his life.
Lustig’s “Vigilante” feels a lot like a spiritual sequel to “Maniac,” but with an Argento-ish spice added for good measure. It’s a movie where authorities are seemingly powerless and non-existent. Worse more there’s this clear sense of isolation and alienation, even in Eddie’s quiet suburb. Eddie (as well as us) is enraged to realize no one came to help his family when they were being brutalized. This narrative point somewhat flips the coin on Eddie’s character taking a noble idealist, and transforming him in to a psychopath who will do literally anything to justice. Sadly Lustig doesn’t delve too heavily in the aftermath of the crime and the PTSD that follows.
Even though it’s heavily implied that Eddie has just about lost all sense of logic regarding his actions. There’s also a heartbreaking moment where Eddie’s wife is absolutely disgusted by him, as Eddie struggles to comprehend why she pits all the blame on him. “Vigilante” delves out some vicious violence and attempts at social commentary about New York City, and how the authorities either prove ineffective or absolutely corrupt. Lustig’s direction is stark and gritty with some great turns by the collective cast. Fred Williamson tends to steal a lot of the show, while Robert Forster presents a very complex turn, ruthlessly knocking down everyone that had a role in the victimization of his family. “Vigilante” is a gem in the vigilante thriller sub-genre, and perfect exploitation, revenge cinema.
From Blue Underground, the physical bells and whistles for collectors includes Reversible cover art with the new cover art, and the vintage poster art. There’s also a 20-page illustrated booklet featuring Michael Gingold’s essay “Doing Justice to Vigilante” and technical credits. The release is sourced from a new 16-bit 4K restoration that looks remarkable and Blue Underground spare no detail giving this movie a bang up restoration. 4K and HDR/Dolby Vision enabled, “Vigilante” looks fantastic. The Blu-Ray is region free thus allowing anyone to be able to play the movie on their Blu-Ray Player.
Featured on the 4K Disc from Blue Underground, there’s Blue Collar Death Wish, a new twenty five minutes program with director/co-producer Bill Lustig, writer Richard Vitere, producer Randy Jorgensen, Rutanya Alda, and Frank Pesce, all of whom discuss the production of Vigilante, the era in which the film was conceived, the tight budget, and its reception. Urban Western is a new twenty six minutes program with composer Jay Chattaway, who discusses his background and career as well as his involvement with Vigilante and the quality of the soundtrack he produced for it.
There are three commentaries: One an archival audio with Bill Lustig and co-producer Andrew Garroni discuss in great detail what it was like to shoot Vigilante guerrilla-style, Two, another archival commentary with Bill Lustig and stars Robert Forster, Fred Williamson and Frank Pesce, all of whom remember what it was like to collaborate on Vigilante, and how the film was received. The third is a new audio commentary with critics Troy Howarth and Nathaniel Thompson, all of whom discuss the stylistic identity of Vigilante, the soundtrack, and some trends in ’70s and ’80s cinema. There are various versions of the original Trailers including the US 4K Version, the International Trailer, Two British Trailers, the German Trailer, the Italian Trailer, and the French Trailer. There are four vintage TV spots, vintage radio spots, an early video Promotional Reel, and two posters and stills Galleries.
The Blu-Ray includes pretty much all the same. There’s Blue Collar Death Wish, a new twenty five minutes program with director/co-producer Bill Lustig, writer Richard Vitere, producer Randy Jorgensen, Rutanya Alda, and Frank Pesce, all of whom discuss the production of Vigilante, the era in which the film was conceived, the tight budget, and its reception. Urban Western is a new twenty six minutes program with composer Jay Chattaway, who discusses his background and career as well as his involvement with Vigilante and the quality of the soundtrack he produced for it, The three aforementioned commentaries, the multiple trailers, and just about everything featured on the 4K Disc is present and accounted for, allowing BD collectors to engage in the experience.