Sommerleigh Pollonais, Senior Writer
Plot: After escaping her violent husband Sadie makes it her life’s mission to help free others in danger. After months of rigorous training in survival skills, boxing, and lethal martial arts, she is back with a vengeance.
Review: There are vigilante movies that you watch for catharsis-like entertainment. A Man Apart, the original Death Wish (or, at the very least, the sequels) and, most famously, Sleeping with the Enemy, are all great examples of the kind of vigilante movies that make you cheer on the protagonist. We’re excited to see them get revenge, we feel that sense of relief and absolution when it’s all over, and we’re left entertained. Then there are the ones that are so dark and so realistic in their depiction of the pain and fear the victims have suffered, it’s hard to call the stories “entertaining”. You’ll still feel that sense of vindication for the heroes (Enough, I Spit on Your Grave, You Were Never Really Here) but it won’t be entertaining and it won’t be easy to watch. A Vigilante (2018) falls squarely in this territory, or at least it did for me.
Writer and director Sarah Daggar-Nickson has delivered a film that’s not easy to watch (as it shouldn’t be). The scenes where abuse survivors tell their stories are delivered without drama or some swelling score playing in the background. But instead we the viewers are placed squarely in that room with these women. It isn’t meant to be enjoyable and I appreciated the use of actresses who didn’t look or feel like actresses, but instead feel like real people who have been through the unimaginable. The lack of music and sometimes even sound in these dark moments force you to feel every bit of it, which is just one of the reasons I would never call a film like this entertaining. And we also have Olivia Wilde’s astounding performance to drill that message home.
I haven’t seen Wilde in anything for a while now, not that she hasn’t been busy (Tron: Legacy, The Lazarus Effect, Meadowland) but of all her filmography, I think this is the performance that I’ll think of when thinking of her work. She never takes the material lightly and the emotional turmoil she goes through resonates with a sense of realism that pulls you in completely. It’s so good in fact, I imagine people who have gone through this type of trauma may find this film hard to watch. All the performances here are strong ones, but Olivia’s Sadie is really the only lead character and she carries this weighty film with dignity and respect. Good for her.
I don’t have much to say about Morgan Spector (Homeland, The Mist television series) who plays her husband because his character isn’t much more than an egotistical monster. I didn’t take issue with this lack of development though as this isn’t his story. We don’t need a likeable or relatable villain here; this isn’t a Marvel movie. Abusers who show no signs of remorse for what they do don’t deserve our energies or our understanding, so all I’ll say is Spector does a good job of making me despise him.
Needless to say, this isn’t a movie everyone is going to enjoy (again, the wrong word but you guys get my meaning). It’s a singular type of character-driven story and, as I’ve said before, it’s not a revenge action thriller with a bunch of guys getting shot up by your A-typical macho-loner hero type. A Vigilante is a straight-up drama meant not as a revenge tale but to show the kind of trauma abuse survivors face and the long difficult road of healing ahead of them. It won’t be everyone’s cup of tea but it’s definitely worth a look.
Score 6.5 out of 10
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Sommerleigh of the House Pollonais. First of Her Name. Sushi Lover, Queen of Horror Movies, Comic Books and Binge Watching Netflix. Mother of two beautiful black cats named Vader and Kylo. I think eating Popcorn at the movies should be mandatory, PS4 makes the best games ever, and I’ll be talking about movies until the zombie apocalypse comes.
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