In Memoriam 1942 – 2013 “Roger Ebert loved movies.”

The Other Lamb

Most of the movie keeps up the narrative suspense against a gorgeous but bleak minimalistic backdrop of rainy, windswept mountains.

How to Fix a Drug Scandal

Rarely have I been more frustrated by a documentary production’s formal choices and how they interfere with the engaging content of the story they’re trying…

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Ballad of Narayama

"The Ballad of Narayama" is a Japanese film of great beauty and elegant artifice, telling a story of startling cruelty. What a space it opens…

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Great Movie Archives

The Unloved, Part 74: Vigilante

When Robert Forster passed, the tragedy was compounded by the fact that he never quite got to shine the way other actors do. His career revival, when Quentin Tarantino cast him in "Jackie Brown" in a rare leading man role (an even rarer leading man role for a guy over 50 playing a guy over 50), happened two decades ago, and led only to him playing more character parts in frequently lamentable movies. Not that he ever gave less than his best. To hear Forster talk about his work, you'd think he was the best rated contractor in town—just a guy who showed up with his toolkit and left you with a full, functioning, beautiful, sturdy house.


As big a fan as I am of his poignant later work, my favorite period of Forster's is his '80s period, when he played downcast, slightly sleazy dudes on missions of mercy. I love his depressive hero shtick in "Alligator," the way he never once lets on that he's doing more than the job of city cop requires, even as he's trying to blow up a 30-foot reptile terrorizing his city. But his work in William Lustig's "Vigilante" catapulted it into the upper echelon of late grindhouse. 

Even though "Maniac Cop 2" is Lustig's masterpiece, "Vigilante" is Lustig's most soulful work—a "Death Wish" remake with an actual moral underpinning, asking questions of its violent world and characters every step of the way. If not for an everyman type like Forster in the role, the film would slip off balance. With him in the role, it became a classic. 

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