July 3, 2023

FIGHTING BACK: Vigilantism...Cheaper By The Dozens

1982 / 98 min
Review by Tiger the Terrible😼

Those of you who’ve seen the original Death Wish might recall Paul Kersey never actually got even with the thugs who destroyed his family. With the police impotent to do anything, he simply took the law into his own hands, luring and shooting would-be muggers, becoming something of a folk hero in the process. For him - and the audience - vigilantism was a form of catharsis. 

The big difference between Death Wish and the countless rip-offs that followed in its wake is there was still the suggestion, however slight, that Kersey’s actions aren’t entirely justified. We’re not even 100% convinced things will end well for him.

There’s no such ambiguity in 1982’s Fighting Back. More simplistic and cartoonish, this good-guys-with-guns flick gives us a whole mob of Paul Kerseys led by John D’Angelo (Tom Skerritt), a grocery store owner who’s ready to take the neighborhood back from robbers, dealers and pimps. Calling themselves the People’s Neighborhood Patrol, they go on the offensive every night, cruising the streets and beating the shit out of perps. Despite instigating these violent clashes, the police do little to stop them. Some cops, such as John’s buddy Vince (Michael Sarrazin), even join the PNP.

Along the way, John becomes a local celebrity and is encouraged to run for public office. He also really enjoys the attention, so much so that when gangsters strike back, all he does is escalate the war, ignoring his wife’s concerns that he’s getting in over his head. After they attack his home, he seems oblivious to the fact that he’s putting his own family in danger.

No snow days for crime fighters.
John himself isn’t a particularly complex or sympathetic character. Getting over the attack on his wife and mother faster than most people change a lightbulb, he’s loud, brash, stubborn and ridiculously fearless. At no time does he ever question his own actions, nor does the film expect us to. Despite superficial - and brief - attempts to address a few serious themes, Fighting Back simplifies, glorifies and romanticizes vigilantism to an extent that makes Death Wish look downright subtle.

But is it fun? Yeah, sort of, depending on one’s frame of mind. In movies, there’s always been something inherently appealing about the concept of taking the law into your own hands. Neither profound nor thought-provoking, Fighting Back is a product of its time and presents vigilantism as pure fantasy (perhaps a bit irresponsibly, considering today's social climate). Still, it’s fast moving and skillfully directed by Lewis Teague, who always had a knack for shaping exploitation into something (slightly) more respectable. 


NOTE: Free Kittens Movie Guide was provided with a promo disc for review purposes. Physical supplemental material included with the final product (booklets, artwork, inserts, etc) were not available for review.

“ENOUGH IS ENOUGH” - A wonderful 30 minute interview with director Lewis Teague, who discusses his entire career, including the making of Fighting Back.

“DANNY-CAM” - Interview with camera person Daniele Nannuzzi.




TWO-SIDED POSTER (not reviewed)

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