Thursday, September 9, 2010

VIGILANTE (Blu-ray)

From the director of MANIAC, MANIAC COP and UNCLE SAM, comes this gritty 1983 drama about a man pushed too far by urban crime. Starring Robert Forster (JACKIE BROWN, THE BLACK HOLE) and Fred Williamson (THREE THE HARD WAY, THE INGLORIOUS BASTARDS), William Lustig's VIGILANTE is a hard-hitting revenge flick that compares favorably to recognized genre classics like DEATH WISH.

In a city drowning under a tide of escalating criminal violence, a group of angry citizens, frustrated by the inability of the cops and courts to reign in the street gangs, drug dealers and rapists, decides to take the law into their own hands. Under the leadership of badass Nick (Williamson), the vigilante group hunts down and delivers brutal beatings to the criminals in their neighborhood.

When family man Eddie Marino (Forster) is invited to join the group, he declines, but very quickly has a change of attitude when a gang of punks assault his wife and blow his small son away with a shotgun. Seeing the corruption in the legal system first hand, he finds himself in jail on a contempt of court rap. With the protection of a sympathetic convict (the great Woody Strode, KINGDOM OF THE SPIDERS), he does his time, and once back on the streets, he arms himself and sets out to balance the scales.

An effective, and sometimes unsettlingly realistic, exploitation thriller, VIGILANTE delivers a gritty tale of vengeance driven by a powerful performance by Forster and the charisma of Williamson. The rest of the cast is great, too, with memorable (if brief) turns by Joe Spinell (MANIAC, STARCRASH) as a slimy lawyer and Carol Lynley (THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE) as an idealistic but frustrated District Attorney. Lustig's direction is assured and relentless, and the cinematography by James Lemmo is understated and somewhat monochromatic, giving the film a bit of a noir look.

Previously released on DVD by Anchor Bay and Blue Underground, this new BU Blu-Ray edition is uncut and sports a remarkable 2.35:1 widescreen transfer at 1080p HD resolution that is noticeably sharper than the previous DVD versions. Blacks (and this film is very dark) are rock-solid, and details are crystal clear. Audio options include 7.1 DTS-HD, 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround EX, and French, German and Italian dubs in 2.0 stereo. For extras, Blue Underground has ported over the entertaining audio commentary by Lustig, Forster, Williamson and actor Frank Pesce, as well as a brand-new commentary by Lustig and co-producer Andrew Garroni. The first commentary is a lot of fun, with the various participants having a good time and relating some great anecdotes, while the new commentary is a lot more "nuts & bolts." Still entertaining, though.

Additionally, there is a slew of international trailers, TV spots, a radio spot, promotional reel and still gallery.

For fans of 80s exploitation films, and especially those who dig Fred Williamson or Robert Forster (and who doesn't?), VIGILANTE is a good bet; a revenge film that delivers. Recommended.

BUY: Vigilante [Blu-ray]