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Category:    Home > Reviews > Crime > Drama > Revenge > Urban > Gangs > Action > Justice System > Vigilante (1983/Blue Underground Blu-ray)

Vigilante (1983/Blue Underground Blu-ray)


Picture: B     Sound: B-     Extras: B-     Film: B-



If I make an argument that William Lustig is an auteur, which is more possible as I watch more of his films on Blu-ray, than the one thing I can say is that he is out to subvert the limitations of claims big Hollywood productions (and other feature films) make about their content.  For instance, a cycle in the 1970s that had to do with people supposedly helpless taking the law into their own hands (partly inspired by questions raised in the first Dirty Harry) included Death Wish and the comedy Law & Disorder.  But his 1983 film Vigilante, one of the last entries in the cycle, questioned it smack in the middle of the original Reagan years.


Robert Forster is good father and hard worker Eddie Marino, who is appalled when a violent street gang senselessly attack his wife and daughter, so he decides he is not getting the help he should from the police and that they just are not effective enough, further enforced by a judge who lets the gang members go when they are arrested and brought to trial.  He decided to form his own gang (think of the Guardian Angels in New York City gone wild) and Marino is willing to kill to protect his home area.


Of course this is the usual reactionary tale, but Lustig (with the screenplay by Richard Vetere) decides to twist this with the impact of the violence and realism that is meant to show the limits of the cycle that often glorified the idea of violence by manipulating it for entertainment and even political reasons.  This is smart, underrated filmmaking too easily dismissed and deserves to be both revisited and discussed.  The impressive supporting cast includes Fred Williamson, Joe Spinell (Lustig’s Maniac, Godfather I & II, Roeg’s Eureka), Willie Colon, Rutanya Alda (The Deer Hunter), Richard Bright, Joseph Carberry, Frank Pesce, Don Blakeley, Carol Lynley and Woody Strode.


Though some have tried to forget this, American Cinema was not all happy Spielberg/Lucas fare at the time, with dark, challenging, adult dramas still coming out of Hollywood on a normal basis, like Peter Hyams’ underrated The Star Chamber made the same year as this film.  A mature, smart discourse that made one think was still the norm of Hollywood and the major studios were still backing such films, versus toy tie-in digital productions today that are about nothing.


Vigilante may be a tough film, but it reflects a tough urban world that is as real now as then.  The saddest change is that the jobs and industries the main characters shared has been long stripped gone and as a result, the world has only grown darker.  That makes this a timely reissue indeed.



The 1080p 2.35 X 1 digital High Definition image is in remarkably good shape for its age, looking better than many recent Blu-rays we have seen with a solid look throughout, good color and a decent, clean presentation that comes from the camera negative that offers the uncut (nearly NC-17 by today’s standards) version.  Some shots especially stand out and one again, Blue Underground proves they have one of the best classic Blu-ray catalogs when it comes to playback picture performance.  Director of Photography James Lemmo (Ferrera’s Ms. 45) delivers a great use of the scope frame and would rejoin Lustig on Maniac Cop (1986, reviewed elsewhere on this site).  This is very distinct visual filmmaking considering it comes out of the too often generic 1980s.


The DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 7.1 lossless mix is a decent upgrade from the old Dolby A-type analog system the film was original released in theaters as.  Original sound stems have obviously been recovered (along with the music score) to upgrade the sound and it is as good a remaster as we could have expected, including D-BOX motion bass encoding for those with such systems.  The Dolby Digital 5.1 EX mix is good, but no match for the DTS-MA.


Extras include two feature length audio commentary tracks with Lustig on both.  He is joined by Co-Producer Andrew W. Garroni on one and co-stars Forster, Williamson and Pesce on the other.  We also get a Theatrical Trailer, TV Spots, Radio Spots, Still Gallery and Promotional Reel.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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