Vigilante: Netflix’s “Watch Instantly” Hidden Gems Review #1
Netflix’s “Watch Instantly” service is a phenomenal concept. I don’t know a single human being, except my uncle Bruce, who wouldn’t want immediate access to his/her favorite movies and TV shows. Well, Uncle Bruce, Netflix’s “Watch Instantly” is for you!
Favorite movies? Netflix probably streams about 2% of those. Favorite TV shows? we’re getting a little better at maybe 10%. Netflix’s streaming catalog is relatively barren in the scheme of TV and cinema and, ultimately, that’s what gave Qwikster-gate its coup de grace. Bottom line is, with its current content library, Netflix is not a good enough service to survive by streaming alone.
But there’s secret treasure tucked away within Netflix’s instant streaming: the random, bargain bin video trash they probably pay for with a few sandwiches. There’s someone really awesome working at Netflix who just buys up streaming rights to every throwaway piece of video content available. Please send this person your kind words because I couldn’t have created this series without them.
I’m proud to present the first entry in the series, “Netflix’s ‘Watch Instantly’ Hidden Gems.”
Vigilante got one thing right straight off the box: you certainly aren’t safe anymore once you start streaming Vigilante.
The basic premise of Vigilante is extremely predictable (spoiler alert: this is not a high art film). It’s an exploration of whether vigilante justice is effective and, dare I say, necessary. There are ongoing themes of corrupt justice systems, incompetent police officers, and even your cliche corrupt prison guard.
The film starts with Fred Williamson giving a passionate speech about the need for vigilante justice. He does it in a fantastic snakeskin jacket and he even references Waterloo, so it’s basically the best speech you’ll ever watch. Then we’re whisked through the intro credits on the wings of some incredibly bombastic synth music to watch a surprisingly awful and depressing attack on a young woman in a hotel building. Cut to Fred Williamson and his vigilante cronies finding the guy who attacked the woman. The criminal is busy eating chips on a street corner until Fred Williamson karate chops his face and takes him away in his hybrid molester/A-Team van of justice. Across town Robert Forster, his wife, and their young son are flying an RC airplane in the park. They’re the happiest family you could possibly imagine, and that’s never good. Then we see Fred Williamson complaining even more about the police and their inability to handle the crime, and he’s mad as hell and not going to take it anymore! Robert Forster isn’t in on the vigilante justice at this point, but that’s nothing we can’t solve with the impending doom lingering in the air. While Robert visits a steelworking shop, his wife slaps the sunglasses off the leader of a mentally unstable yet racially diverse street gang. Lesson: much like pirates, street gangs are equal opportunity organizations.
Throughout these initial scenes, Vigilante does an expert job displaying various styles of vans and station wagons and makes a bold statement against sedan and coupe usage. Only villains drive regular cars. After Robert’s wife heads home, the street gang shows up at their house. Robert Forster isn’t there because he’s off underacting in another scene, so the diverse gang brtually murders his son and brutally almost murders his wife. Of particular note in that scene is the filth and clutter in the Forsters’ home. I’m convinced that even if the gang members didn’t initially plan on killing his family, one look at the filth must have sent them into a psychotic rage.
So despite Fred Williamson’s outright condemnation of “the system,” Robert Forster decides to take the murderous street gang to court. To make sure he has the best chance for justice, he hires the worst lawyer in New York city. Predictably to everyone in the world, but in a huge surprise to Robert, he gets screwed in court. For whatever reason, this ruling provokes the previously mellow, mopey, and underacting Robert to flip out and attack the judge in the courtroom. Now R. Forster is in the slammer and the street gang is back on their home turf, the streets. One point to Fred Williamson.
Based on Vigilante, I’m under the impression that if you charge toward a judge you will go to jail for long enough to experience Shawshank Redemption with an older, more prison savvy African-American prisoner who takes a shine to you. Except in Vigilante this man doesn’t give you posters of hot girls, he punches his way out of a shower rape scene. Chew on that, Red.
While Robert is doing the warden’s taxes in the big house (not really), Fred Williamson is out dispensing vigilante justice to every ne’er-do-well who crosses his path. He teaches us that punching people in the gut is the key to successful fighting, climbing fences is the key to a good chase scene, and vigilantes don’t need any actual evidence for anything before dispensing justice to criminals. In possibly my favorite scene in the movie, one of the street gang members does the most hilariously over-the-top evil action in cinema. While Fred Williamson tails him, the gang member runs up to a random man in a wheelchair and, for absolutely no reason but to incite the karate of Fred Williamson, he face palms the guy to flip the entire wheelchair over. Boy, does that make Fred Williamson itch for justice. Cue a 10-minute rooftop foot chase.
Unfortunately, after Robert gets out of jail, the movie loses a lot of steam. He predictably embraces vigilantism, which leads to him executing a string of obligatory and brutal murders and, in the end, perhaps finding his own salvation. That last point is unclear. What is clear is that he gets away with everything despite doing idiotic things like leaving pistols at crime scenes.
While I’m still not clear on whether vigilante justice is acceptable, Vigilante taught me this lesson. If you do the following…
A) purposely incite the wrath of a gang by slapping their leader in public
B) don’t properly engage the police but rather choose to routinely demean them and their ability to do their jobs
C) hire a sleazebag, crap lawyer, or
D) attack a corrupt judge
…you are going to need to resort to vigilante justice.
It’s certainly a lesson worth learning.