In a direct address to the camera, Fred Williamson vehemently rallies against the crimes within the community and how the “books don’t balance”. Without the context of Nick (Williamson) as a gun-range instructor, his words are wildly sensationalistic and inflammatory for a classroom environment.
Via a fascist advocacy for street justice, William Lustig’s gossamer, plodding Vigilante doesn’t pave its road towards anti-recidivism amorality with the most subtle of brushstrokes. But, in the spirit of grindhouse cinema, sometimes the reptilian jollity of Williamson championing illicit brute force is the tonic from more highbrow fare.
Ostensibly Nick and his ilk are charter members of a capital-punishment group who perambulate around the alleys in search of goons and hooligans. They’re a grungy version of The Star Chamber pollinated with a less bureaucratic A-Team. As for the Puerto Rican gang who violate Eddie Marino’s (Robert Forster) wife and son, they are the stereotypically cartoonish, assortment who blare Latin music on their car stereo and expectorate on gringos.
Why the cumbersome cutaways to television screen’s destruction in the midst of a home invasion? Somehow, Lustig bumbles through the prerequisites of this tasteless scene with a reprehensibly manipulative child death and the overwrought acting by Rutanya Alda (who quickly outpaces the marauders into the backyard instead of garrisoning her toddler who is whistling in the tub upstairs).
As stoic as Forster usually was, he is practically somnambulistic through the motions here. When he asseverates to the district attorney that he “wants this guy to pay for what he did to [his] family”, he can barely muster a churlish tone. The courtroom scene in particular is untenable (22 prior arrests has “no bearing on present allegations” according to the myopically dunderheaded judge). Forster’s other retribution flick Walking the Edge was a much more vividly umbrageous picture and not as insulting to the audience’s intelligence.