From The Grindhouse Cinema Database
"I don't know about you guys, but me? I've had it up to here..." Those opening immortal words are spoken by chief-neighborhood vigilante Nick (Fred Williamson) as he adresses the sign of times to a group of concerned citizens who are looking to defend themselves from the rising crime rate in New York City. Nick's part of a blue collar, working class troupe, consisting of Burke (Richard Bright) and Ramon (Joseph Carberry) who make their daytime living at a wielding/mechanic shop. But at night, they prowl the streets seeking to inflict damage to thieves, muggers, rapists, pimps, you name it. It's simple, the justice system isn't doing their job so it's street justice all the way for Nick and his crew. Their fellow friend/co-worker, Eddie Marino (Robert Forster) doesn't know about their late night heroics until he overhears a local cop (Steve James) warning Nick to back off with the "Lynch mob" tactics. Family-man Eddie doesn't appear to have any plans on joining up with this vigilante crew....Until....A street-gang called The Headhunters led by Rico (Willie Colón) attacks Eddie's wife and son after she had tried to save a gas station attendant from an unruly Rico. The attack is devastating. Eddie's son is killed by a shotgun blast and the wife is carved up by Rico's blade. But Eddie's content that (non-street) justice will prevail once Rico is apprehended.
At the trial, it's painfully evident to Eddie and the prosecutor that Rico will spend the rest of his life behind bars. "TWO YEARS??" screams Eddie once he hears the bizarre verdict delivered by the bribe-happy judge and defense attorney. Rightfully so, Eddie goes berserk in the court, but receives an immediate punishment via "Contempt Of Court". And off goes Eddie to serve his jail time at Riker's Island. Ain't life a bitch? Two battles begin to ensue at this time. One concerns the vigilante crew doing their usual business of cleaning up the streets. And the other battle is Eddie fighting for what's left of his dignified life in jail. But once Eddie's term is up and is set free, you can (literally) hear the spaghetti western-vengeance theme music beginning to blast once Eddie's out on the streets and preparing himself for some Rolling Thunder mode.
Director William Lustig grew up with a steady diet of feasting on grindhouse classics at 42nd Street and once he went through with his goals of becoming a filmmaker, the love and enthusiasm he had for those movies paid off as he, himself, managed to have his own classic films (Maniac 1980 and Vigilante) play in the same venues where his movie geekdom began. What a dream come true that must have been. But the dream wouldn't end there as Lustig would later create a certain beloved DVD company. But that's for another story. Back to Vigilante! As you could tell, this movie's in the same vein of Death Wish and other respected and admired justice/revenge classics that we, grindhouse freaks, all hold deeply in our hearts. But don't get it twisted that this is just a pro-violence movie. There's a key scene that takes place on a rooftop between Nick and Eddie (both actors do a GREAT job in this movie, by the way) where Eddie questions Nick's methods fearing that the vigilantes could cause as much trouble as the thugs do. A wise idea to let this simple question find a way in this movie. A few cons that I have about the movie is that there's a few chase sequences (a foot chase and car chase) which I felt could have been tightened a bit. I felt that these lengthy action/adventure aspects of the movie wasn't needed. But maybe it was wrong of me to be thinking of Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia as I watching this film. Now If I was thinking of Death Wish 3 on the other hand...
To sum it up, Vigilante will brighten your day if you've "had it up to here!"
Reviewed by Laydback