While undeniably full of stereotypes and cliches, Vigilante retains a good deal of power, right from an opening scene which has Nick (Williamson) spouting "take back the streets" rhetoric intercut with gun-range footage. Throughout, he comes across like a heavily-armed talk-show host, and largely steals the show from Eddie (Forster), who runs the whole range of emotions from A to C, after his toddler son is blown away by gang scum (led by salsa legend Colon). Even that doesn't make him sign up for Nick's crimebusters - it's only after he gets sent to Rikers Island, while the gang leader gets a suspended sentence, that Eddie takes matters into his own hands. I imagine a close-call in the prison showers will help concentrate your mind like that.
It's an interesting contrast between Nick and Eddie. The former has a philosophy - which likely makes him the more dangerous of the two - while Eddie only wants to lash out at those who caused his pain. It adds a moral ambivalence to proceedings, suggesting that there are "good" and "bad" vigilantes. [Chris thoroughly enjoyed the location shooting, nostalgically flashing back, for example, to playing handball on the very courts featured in the film.] The car-chase climax is pretty lame (I've never seen New York streets so conveniently empty!), and the movie doesn't so much end, as stop. Still, as obvious Death Wish ripoffs go, this ain't bad.
What we said then: [TC 10] - Surprisingly decent movie from the man behind the ultra-sleazy Maniac, here Lustig restrains himself well to good effect, avoiding both excessive sadism and glorification of the vigilante squad, led by Fred Williamson, who are the main characters. They gain a recruit in the husband of a woman attacked by a gang, after the leader gets a minimal sentence, but he discovers that violence has two sides. Good, believable acting from the cast (including the late Joe Spinelli) and Lustig, much like Abel Ferrara, has an eye for the grimier side of urban life. 8/10.