Friday, June 11, 2021

Junesploitation 2021 Day 11: Vigilantes!


  1. This category was trickier than it seemed at first. So I went with the definition of movie vigilantism as written by Jim Knipfel in the March 2, 2018 Den of Geek article "Death Wish and the Golden Age of Vigilante Movies": 'In vengeance films..., a character who has suffered some unimaginable violation goes a little funny in the head and sets out to exact some vengeance against the specific responsible parties. Vigilantes, in contrast, may suffer a similar violation, but undertake a much broader response driven more by social and philosophical impulses than personal ones.'. That narrowed it down. :-)

    Ted Post's MAGNUM FORCE (1973, Blu-ray).

    With Don Siegel's departure the stylish direction he brought to 1971's "Dirty Harry" disappeared from the sequels; 1983's "Sudden Death" bears a passing resemblance to the original, and that's only because Clint Eastwood learned a lot of his directorial touches from Siegel. Not saying Ted Post ("Hang 'Em High") can't frame a few shots that look good, but "Magnum Force" more often than not relies on no frills, no thrills simple point-and-shoot techniques that make things feel more dull than they appear. Lalo Schifrin's score is terribly dated, but not as bad as the neutering the studio did on the hard edges of Inspector Harry Callahan. Eastwood is fine, but he's either surrounded by women (Adele Yoshioka's downstairs neighbor, Christine White's soon-to-be widow) propositioning him, kids (not his own) that hug Harry good night and/or dumb criminal-of-the-week situations (Harry pretends to be a pilot to bust down some airplane hijackers). Even Callahan's racism has been dialed back to a singular backhanded complement toward queer police officers with good aim. :-O

    "Magnum Force" suffers a big case of sequel's diminishing returns, but its screenplay by John Milius and Michael Cimino feels more provocative and controversial than Callahan's vigilantism in "Dirty Harry." What if Harry's actions created a sub-culture of cops that feel entitled to murder criminals without going through due process? Whether it's pimps killing their own prostitutes (Albert Popwell) or a swimming pool full of rich white crooks alongside their topless women, the bodies stack fast while the narrative pits Harry's distrust for the system against anarchist vigilantes with police badges (played by future TV cops David Soul and Robert Urich) who are worse than he ever was. With a more polished script and better direction this could have been an interesting twist on audience expectations, instead of the now-cliché anti-hero pitted against a bigger bad than himself. Still worth seeing for Hal Holbrook trying (and failing) to reign Callahan in, or to see Harry take down a motorcycle death squad without using his signature weapon. 3.5 AERODYNAMIC PINK PIMP MOBILES (out of 5).

    1. How people will sort out what constitutes a vigilante is one of the more intriguing aspects of today.

    2. I was going to watch "Rolling Thunder," but since I haven't seen it it seemed from the plot summary that the revenge motive was personal and not institutional. Ditto for a bunch of 70's and early 80's Jan-Michael Vincent movies. It's hard to sort which revenge movies are vigilantism-oriented when you haven't seen them beforehand. :-(

    3. I think there can be a personal motive to start with, but I would agree that the vengeance goes beyond that motive at some point. MS. 45 would be a good example of that. In other cases, such as Death Wish II, the motive is personal but still comes from the sense that the police or justice system are not adequately pursuing or punishing wrongdoers.

  2. Jason Eisener's HOBO WITH A SHOTGUN (2011, Amazon Prime) for the first time.

    Where have I seen that picture before? :-D

    Like Robert Rodriguez's "Machete" movies, you can't expect much from a Canuxploitation flick that started its promotional life as a fake trailer in 2007's "Grindhouse." And the best complement I can give "Hobo With A Shotgun" is that it takes its sweet time establishing that its hero (Rutger Hauer) didn't come to town as a trigger-happy nut. Hobo tried to do the right thing and stay out of trouble, but trouble (opportunist videographers paying homeless folks cash for hurting themselves, corrupt cops assisting the local hoodlums carve his chest with a knife, etc.) eventually led to him picking a shotgun over the lawnmower of his dreams... back when you could get either for $49.95.

    Molly Dunsworth's Abby, a prostitute with a heart of gold (and eventually a stump where her hand used to be), is the only other actor who behaves like a human being. Everyone else is a gross cartoon stereotype straight out of a mid-aughts "Punisher" movie, especially big bad Drake (Brian Downey) and his asshole kids. You're supposed to root for these monsters' demise, but the film goes so over-the-top with the gore and violence that you feel nothing when they disappear (although the imagery of a burned school bus to the afterlife was really cool). The montage of newspaper headlines as Hobo cleans town is the highlight before things get "Turbo Kid"-level bad toward the end. 2.5 PEOPLE-HANGING SHOTGUN ROOF SPIKES (out of 5).

  3. MISS MEADOWS (2014, Amazon Prime) for the first time.

    Actor-turned-filmmaker Karen Leigh Hopkins (1998's "Stepmom") wrote and directed this vehicle for actor/executive producer Katie Holmes (one of 28 CREDITED PRODUCERS :-O). Too-sweet-to-be-real substitute teacher Miss Meadows (no first name) is beloved by her neighbors and early age pupils. Miss Meadows looks like she'd be more at home in a finishing school or performing a tap dancing recital, instead of the reason crime is down in the city without anyone knowing. Though her garden's immaculate, the blood drops on her socks betray the (off-screen) trail of vigilante killings she's left in previous towns she lived at. The local sheriff (James Badge Dale) has his suspicions about Miss Meadows, but he's also taken by her beauty and proper vocabulary. They inevitable fall in love when they dance a silly little rock-n-roll song after she tap dances for him, unaware a local hood that mistreats his dog (Callan Mulvey) is onto Miss Meadows.

    The peppy music score by Jeff Cardoni should be your first clue that "Miss Meadows" isn't meant to be taken seriously. Jean Smart (also listed as executive producer) has a choice role as the mother kept at arm's length by a grown daughter too immature to realize she's out of her depth. James Badge Dale has the much trickier role of selling that he either knows the truth about his girlfriend or is too blinded by love to do anything to stop a killing spree. Through it all Holmes sticks to her role of someone above the world she lives in, but her acting chops shine toward the end when Miss Meadows' facade starts to crumble. Neither a feminist take on vigilantism nor an arthouse picture, "Miss Meadows" is another brick in the endless wall of revenge pics crowding streaming services... but it's the cleanest, most immaculate brick you'll ever see. 2.5 CAUGHT-IN-THE-ACT PEDOPHILE PRIESTS SHOT IN THE NUTSACK (out of 5).

  4. Darren Lynn Bousman's SPIRAL: FROM THE BOOK OF SAW (2021, theater) for the first time.

    My first "Saw" movie ever, but since I've heard all the FTM podcasts Patrick & Co. have made about the franchise I've kept up to date with Jigsaw and his (disciples?) machinations. I only wanted to see "Spiral" because of Chris Rock and Samuel L. 'motherfucker' Jackson being in it, and neither disappoint despite the latter barely getting any screen time. I'm usually bad at whodunits, but here the identity of the individual putting a corrupt American police department (even though it's clearly made in Toronto) though the usual booby traps of dismemberment is secondary to the bloody spectacle. Though the mastermind's motives hint at a personal vendetta, he/she is pissed at all the bad cops that have wronged many innocent people besides him/her. That's what passes for vigilantism in this once-popular horror series that feels content recycling the tropes/clichés of its own torture porn predecessors.

    Considering "Spiral" was conceived and made before the George Floyd murder and summer of BLM protests, it's sad that the corrupt cops it depicts (men and women, white and minorities) and some of its violent imagery feel on point in 2021. Chris Rock appears like a kid in a candy store as the star and executive producer of a "Saw" movie, throwing one-liners and cursing like a man possessed early on. But as the gruesomeness increases Rock turns down the comedian act and delivers a genuinely good performance. Doubt there will be a sequel to "Spiral" given its middling (pandemic-affected) box office numbers, but if there is another "Saw" chapter I hope they bring Chris back somehow. His personality and Darren Lynn Bousman's slick direction are the fumes this series is still running on. 3 DECOMPOSED PIG CARCASSES (out of 5).

  5. THE EXTERMINATOR (1980, dir. James Glickenhaus) – Watched on a VHS Rip on Youtube

    A vigilante calling himself The Exterminator is going around New York killing random criminals after his best friend is attacked by a gang. Christopher George plays the police detective trying to find him. There is more than that to the film, however. A romance between Christopher George’s detective and a doctor maybe serves a plot point, but it does not add anything interesting. The side of the story about Vietnam and PTSD is handled awkwardly. All of this points to a bad script. There is a flatness to the acting and the presentation, too. Not a film I would recommend.

    The aspect that I did like about The Exterminator is the New York City that is captures. There is a look at blue-collar New York with the wholesale food markets, and the scenes of vintage scuzzy Times Square are fantastic. It seems like Glickenhaus stole some shots around there.

    Exterminator 2 seems like it would be more entertaining. It is a Cannon film, after all.

  6. Death Wish II (1982)

    Been watching a lot of Bronson this year (and already one Bronson movie previously this Junesploitation), and I got a 3 pack of Death Wish 2-4 which slots in perfectly to this day.

    Now I know that to a large extent to enjoy Death Wish movies you just need to not focus on the fact that every woman in Paul Kersey's life exists solely to come to a horrible end to provide motivation for him. What makes DW2 probably the least enjoyable for me to watch is how mean spirited it is to target the daughter again after what she had endured in the original.

    Not bad, but this is just the appetizer for me for Death Wish 3.

  7. Death Wish 3 (1985)

    "What are those?"


    In a movie full of highlights, Paul Kersey's Kevin McCallister antics might be my favorite bits.

  8. Four Brothers (2005, dir. John Singleton)

    Mark Wahlberg, André Benjamin, Garrett Hedlund and Singleton's muse Tyrese Gibson play adoptive brothers whose mother gets shot, seemingly at random, in a grocery store robbery. Led by Wahlberg's loose cannon Bobby, the brothers go on a rampage across wintery Detroit's criminal underbelly to find out why their mother died.

    It's probably blasphemous towards Boyz n the Hood, but this just might be my favorite Singleton movie. The four leads are all good, Chiwetel Ejiofor makes for a great menacing villain, and the plot moves at a pace and escalates to levels I wasn't expecting. Taraji P. Henson and Barry Shabaka Henley get disappointingly little screen time though.

  9. Death Wish 4: The Crackdown (1987)

    I had double check and see if the script for this was something that got reworked into a Death Wish movie, but apparently not. Say what you will about what the character of Paul Kersey represents, and why it was maybe misguided to make him out as a hero in this franchise but at least he was an actual character in the first three movies. In this entry he loses a lot of the human interactions and emotional bonds that made him more than just a guy who kills criminals.

    7 out of J. Lee Thompson's last 11 movies starred Bronson culminating in Kinjite: Forbidden Subjects a couple years after Death Wish 4. Bronson would go on for another decade and a handful of movies (mostly TV movies) after Thompson's retirement, but in some ways their careers largely wound down together (Bronson even passed away a year to the day after Thompson). It was far from the peak of either of their careers but there is maybe something I appreciate there about how they helped keep each other going for over a decade.

  10. I watched a German movie for this one, but it didn't fit. So I'll use Shaft (1971 - Gordon Parks) as a backup. Another classic I haven't seen before, and I really liked it. Richard Roundtree oozes charisma and it's fun to see him on the screen. Many clichés were born with this movie (I guess, I really know too less about black movie history, but I got myself a book on it, so I'll teach myself).

    4 out of 4 daughters of Bumpy missing - damn you mobsters.

  11. MODEL BY DAY (1993)

    Fun, fierce and female. If the USA Network-styled opening credits don’t pull you in, just wait a few. Don’t be turned off by the fuzzy resolution, it gets better, and you don’t notice it after FAMKE JANSSEN just starts being a STAR. However I’m certainly not saying that I wouldn’t LOVE to see a beautiful looking restoration of this, because I would, and it’d be awesome. To play along with Anthony King's opening line to his new Kill Squad article, this is my "paging Vinegar Syndrome" pick.

    1. I have seen this! It's a little more fun than you think it's going to be. And Famke Janssen is great!

  12. Death Wish 4: The Crackdown (1987, dir. J. Lee Thompson)

    Paul Kersey is at it again; this time hunting down drug dealers in L.A. When a teenage girl overdoses on tainted drugs, he works he kills his way up to two rival gangs. This is everything you want in a Bronson vigilante movie: gun fights, explosions, satisfying kills, a monosyllabic Bronson and an absurd, outlandish plot.

    It’s not as much of a cartoon as DW3, and I noticed that this sequel would probably be the one easiest to censor for TV (no nudity, no rapes and very little swear words). It was the most commercially successful of the Death Wish pictures, and I can see why: it’s the perfect dad action movie.

    In previous movies, Kersey tends to kill a lot of people of color, especially youths, and in this one he’s dispatching gangster and hitmen (mostly white). In that way, it feels far more like your standard Cannon actioner.

    Bonus ‘sploitation points for Kersey’s behind the fridge weapon vault with clearly labeled bricks of C4.

    The titular ninja, whom you’ll remember is also an Army guy by day and secret ninja by night, is reassigned to a base on a tropical island where there is of course a ninja conspiracy afoot. I gave up on the plot real quick and instead just sat back and watched the fights, which are plentiful. One of my favorite action movie tropes is the barroom brawl, and there’s really great one halfway through. This is real turn-your-brain-off fun if there is such a thing.

    30 days of Chinese fantasy movies, day 11
    An ancient all-powerful scroll is kept protected by a school of all-female martial artists. When a mysterious sickness strikes the school, a lone doctor is sent in to investigate. This one’s a little too long, with a lot of time devoted to the romance and/or conspiracy plotlines. The fight scenes, when get them, are nicely filmed, in that leaves-swirling-around-in-the-wind kind of way.

  14. The "Human" Factor (1975, dir. Edward Dmytryk)

    George Kennedy is a vigilante computer programmer who uses his knowledge of 1970's computers to find out who killed his family. This has to be one of the earliest cyber-thrillers. Kennedy spends most of the movie using giant mainframe computers hooked into telephone lines to mine data and make predictions as to where the killers may be. It sounds great, but it's fairly boring, until the last 6 minutes where Kennedy goes on one of the all-time great "I don't give a F" one-man army killing rampages. Worth the price of admission for the final scene.

  15. The Annihilators (1985, directed by Charles E. Sellier Jr.)

    You know, I’ve wanted to watch this movie because the dude on the cover has a facemask on and is carrying a crossbow. That never really happens in the movie, but at least it’s entertaining.

    At the end of the Vietnam War, the soldiers known as The Annihilators — Sgt. Bill Ecker (Christopher Stone, The Howling), Garrett Floyd (Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs), Ray Track (Gerrit Graham!), Woody (Andy Wood) and Joe (Dennis Redfield) — undertake their final mission, during which Joe is critically injured saving his friends.

    Years later, Joe works at his father’s Atlanta convenience store, which is under attack by a street gang led by Roy Boy Jagger (Paul Koslo) and his gang The Rollers, which ends up costing him his life. His father then begs Bill to teach the neighborhood how to fight back, which pretty much consists of the guys ineffectually shooting at the gang members and neither side being really able to hit one another, all while trying to stay away from the cops.

    Known as Action Force in Europe, this movie would have been much better if I just watched the poster and got high. Well, I learned my lesson, The Annihilators.

    Charles E. Sellier Jr. directed this. Yes — the producer of so many of my favorite Sunn Classics films! It was his last time directing after a career that included Encounter with Disaster; Silent Night, Deadly Night and Snowballing. He also created The Life and Times of Grizzly Adams.

    This movie was made at the same time as Invasion U.S.A. and shared the same stunt team, who worked on this movie during the day and with Chuck Norris at night.


  16. Stand Alone (1985)

    One of my favorite things about Junesploitation is finding a hidden gem that for whatever reason slipped through the cracks when it was released and has been unjustly forgotten. Sadly, this inert bore is not one of those cases.

    Charles Durning is an Army vet who witnesses a murder in a neighborhood coffee shop and finds himself targeted by the assailants. Despite the marketing making it look like a Walking Tall-alike he doesn’t actually go into vigilante mode until about 70 minutes into this 90 minute movie, and getting there is a tremendous slog (as well as a criminal waste of Pam Motherfucking Grier as an attorney friend of Durning’s). I love a good vigilante movie, but this ain’t it.

  17. Recoil (2011)

    Well this was a surprise. Stone Cold and Danny Trejo. Real explosions. Actual squibs. Thoroughly entertaining. Austin is suited for a role like this in a movie like this, I guess, because he has a little charm and is always believable and has some actually pretty funny lines too.

    1. Also, this is on the line between vigilante movie and revenge movie, but they call refer to him as a vigilante no less than twice in the movie so I’m counting it lol

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  19. someday I will learn to proof read.

    1. Sometimes in a bid to protect ourselves we will introduce another predator into a habitat in order to quell the population of a species. Such as some places bringing in cats to help control the rat population. While the rat population will dwindle eventually the feral cat population will rise. This rise and the cats search for food leads to a decrease and in some cases the extinction of multiple species of birds, insects and reptiles. The entire ecosystem is in worse shape than when just they just had rats and the people are stuck looking for a solution to the cats. That is the basic premise of this movie.
      After an oil boom in a small California town the local populace struggle under the pressures of added population and added crime. When a large portion of the local police force(two guys) is killed while trying to stop a robbery the town decides they need more help. Local town good guy and parade planner, Ben(Jan Michael Vincent) suggest they hire his brother Aaron Arnold(Kris Kristofferson) for the job. Aaron a Vietnam Vet, celebrated War Hero and former town problem accepts the job and brings in his own deputies. All being former Vets themselves.
      Unbeknown to Ben, Aaron motives are from altruistic. Before long Aaron and his gang have taken over the local gambling and prostitution and begin instilling a protection racket on the shop owners . Aaron also plans to rob the local oil companies payroll during the annual 4th of July parade. Not wanting to believe that his brother could be anything but a hero, Ben is finally forced to face Aaron after his true nature comes to light. The two brothers come to a head on the 4th of July. With Bens vigilante group versus Aaron and his deputies.
      Produced by Gene Corman(Rogers little Brother, ) and written and directed by George Armitage(Grosse Point Blank) with stunts by the legendary Buddy Lee Hooker(First Blood, Lethal Weapon 2). The wonderful cast is filled with some great character actors such as Corman regulars(Dick Miller, Anthony Carbone) and some upcoming Stars(Loni Anderson, Paul Gleason and Bernadette Peters). The strongest performance in the film by far is Kristofferson. He plays Aaron as playful, stern and dangerous. In the best scene of the film. Someone starts to question Kristofferson. Kristofferson cuts them off and tells he is going to kill them. Somehow in this scene. He doesn't say it evil or cartoonish like most would say. He just says it as if he is already exhausted with victim. Yet somehow Kristofferson manages to stay likable enough before this moment that we can understand why Ben is so woefully ignorant to what is going on around him. Vincent as Ben is good but the character is pretty one note.
      I really liked this film. While the action isn't filled with set piece after set piece what is there was really good stuff. The various bar fights peppered in the movie alone are a blast while the final action scene at the refinery is one I'm surprised I never heard of before. Just the sight of Farmers versus Marching band should be enough but then we get molotovs, bazookas and exploding oil wells brought into the mix and it just becomes a riotous blast. The film is far from perfect but it is fast paced and pretty fun. Can't recommend this enough

    2. today is not the day I learn. Here's the title.

      Vigilante Force(1976)George Armitage

    3. Thanks. 😄 Was wondering what the name of the movie l was reading a giant-ass review was, and dreading not knowing by the end. 🙂👍

    4. oh my. i just watched this. it is…great. i couldn’t believe how free wheeling fun it was and yet earnest in its characters dilemmas. I always love Jan Michael Vincent (RIP) and KK, and i’ve had this blu on my shelf from Kino for over a year and just unwrapped it today. This is a legit favorite now.

  20. Darkman II: The Return of Durant, dir Bradford May, 1995

    I know this was filmed along Darkman Die, and Return of Durant was meant to be the third. And maybe was unceremoniously dumped on VOD. But I thought Arnold Vosloo Darkman is kind of delightful. It is nothing compared to the Sam Raimi 1990 Darkman - but what is? - but it was charming in it's own charm. Like Vosloo dicking around in his lair complete with train he rides around annoying the cat. And plus Larry Drake makes everything better. More Mad Scientist Vilgantes please.

  21. The Equalizer (2014)

    Do you ever get mad at yourself for waiting so long to watch a movie? Yeah. I'm mad. I should have seen this sooner.

  22. Black Mask- 2 versions! US and Taiwanese extended. This movie still rules because Jet Li always rules. The two versions were interesting. The Taiwanese version is preferred because it's completely uncut and in Chinese (though Li is still dubbed) but I have to admit, the hip-hop score in the US version is better. But the US version's dub might be the worst dub I've ever heard.

  23. Sheba, Baby (1975)

    This movie is loads of fun featuring the wonderful
    Pam Grier, Austin Stoker, and my dude D’Urvell Martin. Sheba returns home to find her father’s loan business being threatened by some local crime lords. The cops can’t do anything, so Sheba needs to get down and dirty herself. Great one liners, shoot outs, and all around badassary. As Sheba says, “you can have your town back now.”

  24. Lady Snowblood (1973) - What an incredible film. So far this is my discovery of the month.

  25. Dirty Harry (1971)

    This was a first time viewing for me! I can see why it is one of Eastwood's more popular characters. Though that scene with him spewing every racial slur in the book was cringe-inducing! I have a major blindspot with movies pre-80s, so I am glad Junesploitation provided the impetus to cross another title off the list. :)

  26. Savage Streets (1984)

    If only Linda Blair had a few more stylistic choices in her quiver.

  27. The Punisher (1989)

    One of my last remaining blind spots in the larger superhero canon, from a time when no one cared too much about things like references, easter eggs, comics-accurate costumes (or, it seems, any costumes at all - seriously, would it kill anyone to have Frank spray paint a crude skull on his T-shirt at some point?), IP management or brand protection (Punisher shouts out Batman in this one! Doesn't he realize Marvel and DC are corporate archrivals?). I really loved the way Frank Castle is portrayed here, especially in act one. He doesn't come across as any sort of superhero, or even antihero, he's just a genuinely unhinged person and he's actually pretty scary, more a dehumanized killing machine than a human being. The script softens him up quite a bit later on with the kids stuff, the relationship with his former partner and an occasional one-liner ("I don't want to stretch this out..."), but he remains a seriously damaged and tragic figure until the very end. It's easily my favorite Dolph Lundgren performance, and I also think it's the best he's ever looked in a movie, with his hair all messy and dyed black, the dark circles around his eyes, his face all bruised up, the way he hunches his shoulders like he's carrying a massive burden - you can instantly tell that's a guy who's been through a lot. I didn't have high expectations (Punisher's never been among my favorite character), but the movie really surprised me with how solid and well-made it is.

  28. Death Sentence, dir Wan, 2007

    Death Sentence was a fantastic. Wan directed the hell out of it. There's a carpark chase that is one for the ages. However it is an absoutley devastating movie and I need a hug.

  29. Vigilante (William Lustig, 1982) & Death Wish (Michael Winner, 1974) (in that order)

    Death Wish was a major blindspot for me. I've just never been drawn to anything about it, be it the politics or the actor. Well... let's just say this viewing didn't exactly make me reassess my preconceive ideas (but I'm glad I finally took the leap). Vigilante, a movie I had seen before but had very little memory of, is MUCH more my jam, on so many levels (one of them being Jay Chattaway's kickass score), even though it's a little all over the place plot-wise. It's really put me in Lustig mode, and I'm definitely (re)watching more later in the month.

  30. Safe (2012, dir. Boaz Yakin)

    It didn’t fit the category as well as I thought it would, but Jason Statham is a non-cop who kills a ton of criminals, so it counts enough. Anyway, the movie is insanely badass.

  31. Drive Angry (2011)

    I really wish I had seen this in the theater. Not only is it one hell of a fun ride, the gimmick of bullets (and other exploding things) rocketing towards me in 3D sounds wonderful. A movie I had been meaning to watch and I'm glad I finally did.

  32. Death Wish (1974)

    Pretty good movie. I'm sure I had heard that the 2nd or 3rd one is even better, but Rotten Tomatoes seems to really disagree with this assessment.

    Oh yeah, and Herbie Hancock with the musical score! That was an unexpected treat.