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Critics' Reviews

AMG Review
Jason Buchanan
After testing the gag reflex of horror fans with the sleazy, gore-drenched excess of Maniac, notorious genre specialist William Lustig turned his attentions from serial killers to vigilantes for this tale of an honest blue-collar worker whose well-grounded principals are violently uprooted by one sickening act of annihilation. Lustig isn't the kind of filmmaker whose frequently sited for his restraint, and the shotgun splatter on display in this tale of inner-city warfare is s prime example of inner-city exploitation at it's most watchable. Having honed his skill for staging sloppy shotgun deaths (with a little help from special make-up effects maestro Tom Savini of course) in the aforementioned schizoid shocker, Lustic here ups the ante by not only placing a pre-adolescent in the line of fire, but refusing to flinch when the child's violently dislodged viscera is sent splattering through a third-story window as well. It's not a pretty site, and though it could be argued that witnessing the child's violent demise may cause the viewer to take greater emotional stake in the father's quest for revenge most viewers will reflexively (and perhaps, rightfully) object to the director's audacious lack of tact. For those willing to buckle themselves in and go along for the ride, on the other hand, it's precisely these kind of shocks that keep the viewer glued to the screen as to not miss a minute of the morbid spectacle - after all, if Lustig's willing to callously smoke a small fry in the opening reels, who knows how far hell go to wrap this whole mess up? Thankfully Lustic has a team of skilled actors to back up his bleak vision, with Robert Forster's damaged stoicism, Fred Williamson's fervent lawlessness, and Willie Colon's cocksure street thug serving well to keep the grim endeavor on the right track. Energetic supporting performances by Joe Spinell as the corrupt defense lawyer and western legend Woody Strode as rock-solid inmate Rake ensure that Vigilante never gets boring, even during the occasional lull in action. It's lean, it's mean, and for fans of revenge flicks, Vigilante delivers a devastating setup and a cathartic release on par with such celebrated retribution classics as Death Wish and Rolling Thunder. ~ Jason Buchanan, Rovi
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