||There were vigilante movies before the nineteen-seventies, but this genre of action thrillers came of age in that decade, with the highest profile example the Michael Winner-directed Charles Bronson hit Death Wish in 1974. But this was not the opening salvo in this preoccupation with heroes taking the law into their own hands, as while it was undoubtedly the highest profile, even to this day (Robert De Niro in 1976's Taxi Driver would garner the critics' praise for similar behaviour), Clint Eastwood arguably got in there first the year before. The film was High Plains Drifter, his second at the helm of his own project after Play Misty for Me, and it delineated many of the loosely designed rules of vigilantism in the cinema thanks to its grounding in the Western, where after all the idea of a man (or indeed woman) travelling into a corrupt town to clean it up was so obvious as to be something of a cliché. Only Eastwood was not here to spout clichés.
The town here was Lago, a place with a guilty secret in spite of its hypocritical embrace of the moral high ground, for as we discover in flashbacks their previous Marshal was murdered in the main street by whip-wielding assassins for hire, all as the townsfolk looked on in silent approval. Well, almost all: dwarf Billy Curtis would have liked to have stepped in but nobody takes him seriously, and the hotelier's wife Verna Bloom wanted to save the man but was bundled away inside. When the stranger, unnamed but played by Eastwood in the pattern of his Sergio Leone character, arrives, he claims he simply wishes a beer and a bath, but somehow the ne'erdowells in the community recognise this man may be trouble for them and try to bump him off before he can do anything. He turns the tables, and makes a deal with the Sheriff to provide his skills to stop three outlaws who are on their way back to cause havoc.
Against all appearances to the contrary, the cowardly locals believe the stranger has their best interests at heart even as he exploits them; if you hadn't noticed by now, he is purely there to eliminate those who allowed the murder of the Marshal to go ahead, as well as the trio of bad guys who actually performed the deed for them. The stranger receives nothing but the satisfaction his brand of frontier justice is done, that being its own reward, but High Plains Drifter was deeper than that: quite apart from its bizarre lapses into comedy that often go unrecognised, there was the mystical aspect that has been mulled over ever since. Is the stranger a ghost, an avenging angel, the Devil, or a more prosaic wronged brother? We never find out, and there seems to be no definite answer, but there was a telling line when Curtis asks him what they will do after the killing. "Live with it" is the reply, suggesting the real theme is more guilt and culpability than retribution.
Revenge for a terrible ordeal was the trigger for most screen vigilantes, there always had to be something harrowing to set them off, but as the genre became established in the seventies, loosening censorship meant the movies could be more explicit about these life-changing incidents, and none were more explicit than the Swedish Thriller: A Cruel Picture in 1973. It was the brainchild of Bo Arne Vibenius, who had worked on art films with Ingmar Bergman before helming one of his own, which flopped, therefore in a fit of pique he concocted the worst taste extravaganza he could think of to appeal to the general public who had previously rejected him. He recruited Christina Lindberg to star in the lead role, which is likely why the film is recalled to this day, such was her cult following, and though not everyone could take it, it became her most celebrated vehicle as she pushed at the limits of what was acceptable.
Well, sort of. Although content to do nudity, it had made her famous after all, she drew the line at hardcore, so Vibenius added unsimulated sex of others to her scenes to spice them up. Rather unsavoury as that stood, but even more so when you knew Lindberg's Frigga had been kidnapped into sex slavery by drug pushing slavers, so what you were seeing were rape scenes with hardcore inserts, an example of how the film was disgusted with the audience who would want to go and see this sort of thing. However, almost incidentally the project tapped into the need for vengeance by a much-victimised group in society: this started with Frigga being sexually assaulted as a child (not explicit, thankfully) which renders her mute, and when she grows up (on a farm) she winds up in the severely compromised position of forced prostitution. To make matters worse, to keep her in line her pimp cuts out her eye, leaving her sporting patches of various hues for the rest of the story.
If this is sounding determinedly unpleasant, then you would be correct in that assumption, but the presence of Lindberg lifted the material. She was not a great actress by any stretch, but she did have a magnetic quality that made even watching her perform mundane tasks curiously compelling, with her doll-like features and unfussy, direct style, so when she is seen taking lessons in firearms, martial arts and racing cars in her time off (what kind of slavers give you time off to do that?!) the stage is set for Frigga to make amends, not just for herself but for every woman who has been abused by a controlling personality. Thus the empowering nature of the vigilante flick was rarely so purely portrayed, there's nothing more to the character than that, and Vibenius approached her as if he had not got the art films out of his system, slow motion and all, making in its weird way something mythic of Christina's newfound agency in her bleak world, another theme to return to.
Don't Mess Aroun' with... Foxy Brown said the ads in 1974, Miss Brown being played by Pam Grier in her last film for writer and director Jack Hill, the man who had arguably made her a star. She was interesting in that she was a woman of colour who after decades of such actresses largely being neglected for leading roles, found herself not only headlining her own movies, but being a big draw in them as well, purely on the strength of her name. Well, not purely, it helped that she could act and was not simply on the screen to look glamorous, or in her case, tough and mean too when push came to shove and she was forced to take up arms against her foes, but if anything Foxy Brown was her toughest effort as she turned vigilante to avenge the death of her undercover cop boyfriend (Terry Carter). He had been given plastic surgery to alter his appearance, but Foxy's no-good brother (Antonio Fargas) had twigged who he really was and tipped off the crime syndicate villains.
Foxy gets the idea to set out on her own by the local vigilante group in her neighbourhood who are determined to clean up the streets by wiping them clean of criminals, though when she goes to the Black Panthers in the community, they aptly note it is not justice she is after, but revenge, and that makes a difference. The bad guys were led by a Mrs Big (the tragically shortlived Kathryn Loder) who runs a prostitution ring in addition to a drugs ring (the latter employing Foxy's brother), and her trophy boyfriend (Peter Brown) acts as her heavy as he fawns over her while we can see he is simply with her for the power by association and his pick of her girls. All very sleazy, but much as you would expect from a blaxploitation flick from this era, and if some members of the black community were embarrassed by these works' popularity, other felt empowered which was precisely the appeal of Grier, one of the most important performers of her era.
Like Lindberg, she had to endure a terrible ordeal and humiliation to justify her activities in score-settling, and there was no way either were going to the cops: this was something they had to do themselves. As Foxy sees her support network falling away at the hands (and guns) of the syndicate, she must establish herself as the most self-sufficient character in the film, though critics were appropriate to point out that her punishment when in the lion's den was probably far too rough to be enjoyed unironically, no matter that such a harrowing experience was the trigger for her to toughen up (even more!) and really balance the scales of her own, personal notion of justice. With such asides as a brawl in a lesbian bar and Foxy making fun of a judge who thinks she is a prostitute (she was only posing as one), the theme of getting your own back against a society that believes it's fine to mistreat you was as potent as Lindberg's outing, and Grier’s magic touch contributed hugely.
Also in 1974, Italian action specialist Enzo G. Castellari was serving up his variation on the Charles Bronson ideal with Street Law. The opening montage under the titles told you all you needed to know about Italy in the seventies: riddled with crime the cops were apparently powerless to stop, the robberies, kidnappings and murders were rocketing to all time high levels and leaving law-abiding citizens terrified to go out into this violent atmosphere, or if they did they had become so used to the state of the nation that they barely cared anymore. Our hero was Carlo, played by Franco Nero, who one day happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time when he is depositing a wad of hard-earned cash at the bank only to be interrupted by a gang of thugs who burst in and threaten the staff and customers. Carlo wants to keep his money safe, but one of the robbers notices him making a grab for it on the counter.
This act results in Carlo being kidnapped by the three crims and forces him to endure a car ride of terror with the police in hot pursuit, one of Castellari's signature sequences. He always claimed to be an American director who worked in Italy, for he had learned everything he knew about action thrillers from watching the Hollywood productions, much like many of his contemporaries not on the arthouse scale, but there was a lot specific to his country of origin in the method and style of works like Street Law. On the evidence of the first quarter hour, he was happy to push the audience's buttons with action-packed suspense and a sense that there was great injustice occurring here, as Nero was about as far from the conventional macho protagonist as it was possible to imagine while still being played by the star. Sure, in his best-loved role of Django he had suffered mightily before opening up his gun coffin and unleashing his vengeance, but this was different.
Indeed, Nero did not even fire a gun until the last fifteen minutes of the movie, a long wait for the pay-off and emphasising the story's determination to humiliate Carlo right up to his breaking point. When the police do nothing to arrest his captors - apparently he should have been happy to be let go alive - he decides to turn detective and track down his aggressors to bring them to justice. You don't need to have seen an Italian crime flick before to know this will eventually mean the bullets fly, but Carlo is a surprisingly weak personality, and Nero played him very well, making us understand his anguish but also not making him some invincible Superman. He teamed up with Giancarlo Prete as another lawbreaker who at least knows something of the landscape of the underworld, yet that's not enough to indicate Carlo was losing some of his soul by descending to that activity of setting out on his own for justice which may be nebulous anyway.
The nineteen-eighties was the decade where the action genre was refined and the vigilante, previously the province of the Western legend of the lone man against a violent world, became re-adapted for the Reaganite era of fighting force with greater force. No studio prepared to deliver on that zeitgeist more than Cannon, having been bought by Israeli cousins Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus and retooled into their own personal moviemaking playground. They churned out countless action flicks and hired established stars when they could, which in 1982 meant the coup of securing the services of ageing, stony faced Charles Bronson, the biggest star almost everywhere of the seventies, though not necessarily in his native United States where his appeal was less universal. But he had had a blockbuster hit with Death Wish, and Cannon were keen to make a sequel, or at least some form of similar follow-up.
Death Wish II was that sequel, the first movie Bronson made for Cannon and another big hit for them, enthusing them so much that they were practically inseparable until the end of the decade when the studio's fortunes took a turn for the worse. They took on Michael Winner as the director once again, and it seems he was more keen to explore the limits of violence that he could get away with while still having a releasable project, so the main talking point was that Bronson's hero, architect Paul Kersey, saw his housekeeper raped and murdered, then his daughter was kidnapped by the perpetrators, raped herself, then ran away only to be impaled on railings in her escape. The first film had featured a pretty horrible ordeal for the women in Kersey's life, but Winner upped the ante so far that it was absurd, and not in an amusing manner either. Nevertheless, the hero needed an impetus to take up his weapons again, and that double tragedy was it.
As Bronson took to the streets - the seamier streets of Los Angeles this time - he struck a curiously conservative figure, as you might expect a man in his sixties to do no matter if he was a man of action or otherwise. This was a man who had heard about the rising crime rates on the media, and then was subjected to it by a conservative's worst nightmare, an interracial gang of young men little better than a pack of stray dogs, representing the fears of a nation that they were who society was being given over to. The script, which was extensively rewritten by an uncredited Winner, may have been ridiculous in its overstatement, but that didn't mean it wasn't taking itself seriously, with barely a couple of intentional jokes in the whole thing; when Jill Ireland, Bronson's actual wife playing his girlfriend, walks away from him in disgust at the end, it's more the consequence of an occupational hazard of the vigilante, since most citizens agree with your behaviour anyway.
Death Wish II was Cannon's first major hit under Golan and Globus, so they were keen to repeat the formula, and even pick up titles for distribution that did the same. Hence the year after in 1983 they released indie Young Warriors which had been the brainchild of some young filmmakers looking to make their mark in the movie world, led by director Lawrence D. Foldes, who already had a couple of low budget features to his credit. That he is not now mentioned in the same breath as Steven Spielberg should give you some idea of the quality of his output, and this example has been baffling the unwary entertainment seeker for some time now, starting as it does as what in some places was claimed to be a sequel to minor cult teen flick Malibu High, not that it stays there for any great length of time, merely the introduction where our hero (James Van Patten) picks up his school diploma on the back of a motorbike.
So you're in for an Animal House rip-off, right? Or at least a Porky's rip-off? For around twenty minutes this appeared to be the case, as the frat boys, now at college, are more interested in partying than studying, though Van Patten is applying himself to his animation course, only not sticking to the parameters laid down by his tutor. These clips of cartoons are intended as an insight into his fragile mind, but maybe more revealing are the weirdly homoerotic pranks the boys get up to which would mark them out as psychopaths to be put on some kind of register in any other real-world scenario. However, Foldes had a lesson to teach these crass boors, and it starts when our protagonist hears the news that his sister has been raped and murdered by a crime gang much beloved of Cannon efforts for blaming society's ills upon. This has a detrimental effect on him, and at last, he decides to turn vigilante and track down said gang.
But he doesn't do it alone, in a genre where, especially in the eighties, the purpose was to glamorise the lone avenger beating the odds, this was one of the few that presented a gang of crimefighters, such as William Lustig's Vigilante from the previous year, though that was at least in possession of a stronger grasp of tone than Young Warriors. The purpose here was not so much to teach the perpetrators a lesson, more the young men trying to do the same, and even make them throw up in their mouths when they realise the cycle of violence they have become mired in. Not really the Cannon way, though you can't imagine they were that bothered as long as this threw in the bloodshed and nudity with wild abandon, which it assuredly did, yet when it was straining to be taken so seriously and there was a major gulf between that intention and what the results were, it did come across as absurd, if not too hilarious (the bad guys even shoot the Scooby-Doo pooch!).
Not to be outdone was Linda Blair, who since making headlines in The Exorcist back in 1973 had seen her career lapse into exploitation, and Savage Streets in 1984 was one of her most popular works among her fans, probably because of its relentlessly sleazy mood. This was the sort of film that you could easily point to as a prime example of its genre in this decade, with its mixture of low comedy, sex, nudity and violence, all of which was participated in with some capacity by its pint-sized star. That was the issue with Blair's efforts during this era, she was obviously such a nice girl, but producers and directors took great delight in mussing her up: here she swears like a trooper, even the C word, but you're never convinced she was anything but an actress playing a role. Of course, that can give rise to a certain quality of camp as well, which was present if not as enjoyable as it might have been in this relentlessly unpleasant milieu.
Blair even had her own nude scene, one of many she participated in which were curiously defiant, as if to say to the audience with steely intent, "Yeah, I look more like a cute chipmunk than Tanya Roberts, but these clothes are coming off, Goddammit!" Linnea Quigley, herself no stranger to disrobing in her movies, played her deaf mute sister (naturally, the two actresses looked nothing alike) who triggered Blair's thirst for vengeance when she is raped and left in a coma by a gang of four nasties who were annoyed when her own gang nicked their car and covered it in garbage. As with the Bronson items, the enemy were so despicable that you had the sense buttons were being pushed for the audience, leaving us no option but to cheer on their eventual comeuppance, in this instance taking place when Blair finally finds out who was responsible for the crime that has so outraged her and her friends.
Mind you, it took her long enough, the baddies might as well have been wearing T-shirts that said "Rapist" on them for all the subtlety Savage Streets indulged in, as in the meantime the lead up to the heroine's catharsis was distracted by scenes in some of the least convincing school lessons imaginable, complete with the English teacher analysing some pornographic doggerel to get down with the kids and the least strenuous exercise regime ever for the P.E. class. That was not to mention John Vernon as the Principal, swearing about as much as Blair did ("Go fuck an iceberg!") and not filling you with confidence that this was the most professional of leaders of learning. But it was the grand finale that diverted the film's fans the most, as Linda took up arms, a crossbow to be exact, and saw to it that the gang who offended even her character's shaky grasp of decency never did so to anyone else. It did have trashy verve in its favour, in a comic book manner.
Cannon were not to be outdone, however, as with even television series featuring vigilantes like The A-Team and The Equaliser proving the popularity of the concept, they put into production two more Death Wish movies with Bronson and sought further variations on the format. This was why in 1984 Exterminator 2 was released, a sequel to one of the scuzziest of the grindhouse thrillers coming off the back of the golden age of the style in the seventies, which itself was looking forward to the eighties and what would be packing out those theatres as a result. The trouble was, when producer-turned director Mark Buntzman gave them his cut of the sequel, Cannon really didn't like it: apart from the scene where Robert Ginty's Vietnam veteran crusader feeds a hoodlum into an industrial meatgrinder, the thing the character was best known for was an alternative form of execution. This was his trusty flamethrower.
Bringing to mind the George Carlin stand-up routine about the origins of such a weapon, The Exterminator really did have a reason to want to set fire to somebody over there but did not have the required proximity, yet for Buntzman this was not enough to feature him using the mechanism until the very end of the movie. Golan and Globus went ballistic (perhaps ironically - or aptly) and demanded reshoots with a welder's mask-sporting double for Ginty to stand in for him in scenes where he would set evildoers aflame, and added more business with the armoured garbage truck belonging to the hero's best friend (Frankie Faison, who could have done with a lead role on this evidence), plus a new, explosive ending. This left the proceedings a lot more Cannonical, especially when those bad guys were their biggest contribution to eighties action movies, the multiracial, wholly immoral gang decked out like pantomime punks.
Mario Van Peebles had a lot to thank Buntzman for as the director hired him to play the lead villain, and they remained friends as Van Peebles won the spotlight from Ginty in every scene he was in (to be fair to the leading man, a lot of his appearance was re-edited and replaced, leaving his co-star to exploit the situation). You could tell this was a Cannon movie because there was a sequence where the Exterminator, in his civilian guise, was out with his dancer girlfriend (Deborah Geffner) admiring a group of none-more-eighties breakdancers when she visits the public toilets and is set upon by some gang members who break her spine, and she ends up in a wheelchair. Women got a raw deal in vigilante movies, even Lindberg, Grier and Blair, and if not prepared to take up arms, they had to be prepared to be abused to trigger the hero's vengeance. Not that Faison fared better, this was a near-parody of what happens to female and/or non-white associates of the main character.
The eighties still had one major vigilante to cover, and managed to sneak him under the wire when Dolph Lundgren played the comic book hero The Punisher in 1989, but the action movie landscape was changing, and it was no longer about an ordinary guy or gal who is pushed too far and has to take the law into their own hands, here audiences were more interested in watching someone they knew to be a trained professional putting their skills for violence to good use. Thus when Steven Seagal starred in Marked for Death in 1990, it was established at the beginning, under the opening credits in fact, that he was playing a narcotics agent who had no qualms about gunning down all and sundry as long as he had proof they were involved in the drugs trade, and that included topless women. But what was this? Mere minutes after indulging in this bloodbath as a starter before the main course, Steve was expressing his regret for his lifestyle.
He's not been too corrupt to bring the bad guys to book, which is absolutely fine because he did achieve justice, but the daily grind of blowing away anonymous dealers has to affect you somehow, and Seagal was needing a change to a quieter life. As this was expressed in the first ten minutes, you would not be surprised that he subsequently forgot about all that and despite giving up his job in law enforcement, he is soon persuaded to turn vigilante after a Jamaican gang begin to make inroads on his turf and attack his family. They sell drugs too, after all, drugs are bad, no matter how much we imagine was going up the nostrils of people who made entertainment like this, there was a lesson to be learned, and that was: you supply, you die. What this led to was Seagal executing about a hundred black guys with variously authentic and phony Jamaican accents, which you might have thought someone at the production considered made their leading man look... a tad...
OK, racist is what Marked for Death looks, with its baddies steeped in patois, ooga-booga voodoo ceremonies, and general illegal activity taken to like ducks to water as if this was what black people got up to when whitey wasn't around to keep them in check. To soothe any worries in that area, Seagal's crusader was given a black sidekick, the hapless Keith David, who is an old Army buddy and far more anti-Jamaican than Seagal ever admits to being, and then, as if that was not particularly helping, we had a short scene crowbarred in where David walked down a street in Kingston with nice local cop Tom Wright and realised not all Jamaicans were criminals. It was so blatantly mealy-mouthed in light of the rest that even Cannon wouldn't have bothered to include it, but where the politics gave one pause, at least Basil Wallace as the chief evildoer Screwface provided value for money: a movie starring him and David as antagonists would have been an improvement.
As the nineties dragged on, a new kind of action experience took hold, one that relied on a very old form: the superhero movie. Now, not every action effort featured someone in a specially-designed costume kicking the asses of the bad guys with their special abilities, but it seemed as the decade progressed this was the sort of action audiences wanted to see, and while Marvel's The Punisher was the closest thing to the traditional vigilante in superhero guise, he by no means informed the subgenre. But over in Japan, away from Hollywood's newly-rediscovered love affair with the comic book, was another hero based on a manga, as increasingly that country's cinematic genre output was turning to, and the man at the helm was the ageing enfant terrible of Japanese extreme pictures. The film was Ichi the Killer, and he arrived in 2001, complete with costume and a particular power of his own to harness: his sexual perversity.
Ichi (Nao Ohmori) is a twentysomething loser who has been brainwashed by a mysterious mentor (Shinya Tsukamoto, himself no stranger to the wilder end of Japan's movies, though largely as a director) into believing he was bullied at school, and this led to the only girl who made a point of being nice to him getting raped by said bullies. Nothing like that happened, and while we don't find anything out about Ichi's origin story other than this nonsense one, a spoof of every other superhero opening instalment (or so it appeared), it guides him to cut a literal swathe through a yakuza organisation thanks to his way with a blade concealed in his special boot. Apparently this was a comedy, but while its director Takashi Miike was known for sneaking in a curious sense of humour to many of his works, most would be hard pressed to raise much of a titter at the blood-drenched, poorly-CGI'ed antics on display.
Among those who believed there was something transgressive and liberating in extreme movie violence, Ichi the Killer won an ardent fan following, but the truth was it was a very long slog at over two hours of relentless misery for the characters, even the one who was a sadomasochist, the gangster number two Kakihara (Tadanobu Asano, who would end up in actual Marvel entries) who cannot achieve the pain and desire mix he wishes for now his boss has disappeared, supposedly because Ichi has killed him (it didn't matter, it was merely an excuse to stage the setpieces). As the hero, if that's what he was, makes his way up the gangster totem pole by essentially murdering them in bizarre ways, those villains did the same to anyone they believed could assist them in their enquiries, purely so the brutality quotient could go through the roof. If you were not deadened by this, Ichi ending up a crying wreck was at least an apt yet little-seen vigilante yarn conclusion.
But the king of the movie vigilantes, certainly in terms of box office returns, was Batman, and he didn't even use gun. Not only that, but in the comics he didn't kill anybody either, and though he has had slight missteps in that department on the big screen (didn't that Penguin henchman he blew up in Batman Returns count, then?) his moral compass was such that he would almost always work out the best path out of a dangerous situation, for himself and others, by using the least bloodthirsty methods possible. The Punisher, who returned in 2004 and 2008, would have been horrified, but then there's never been a Punisher movie that brought in the profits like Tim Burton's 1989 Batman, arguably the blockbuster that kicked off the twenty-first century preoccupation with superheroes, or Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight trilogy of 2005-2012. Batman Begins was first of that three, and a conscious move away from its immediate predecessor, Joel Schumacher's Batman & Robin.
While Schumacher saw himself landed with the worst director ever award from the film buffs before Uwe Boll made his mark on their tastes, Batman Begins had in its director Christopher Nolan a man both cognoscenti and populist could get behind. His take on the Caped Crusader offered jokes, sure, but they were moments of wit in a very grim Gotham City, no matter Nolan's claim that he was aiming for as wide an audience as possible: many still wonder how the second instalment The Dark Knight managed a 12A certificate in the United Kingdom; one supposes it's because neither Batman nor his antagonists swear. Back at Batman Begins, you could see why this informed the superhero efforts to come, as while Sam Raimi's Spider-Man arguably set Marvel on their course to world domination, it was this costumed amateur law enforcer and his manner of taking the whole concept extremely seriously that anyone crafting one of these would emulate from now on.
Gone were the days of Adam West larking it up with a commendable straight face back in the sixties, here we were served up Christian Bale in an armoured suit and cape that enables him to glide across the Gotham cityscape, albeit with the same attitude to star casting as West had encountered, a celebrity in every significant role. His villains were well-chosen, the shadowy international crime master R'as Al Ghul and his underling, the fear-gas administering Scarecrow, two bad guys not seen on the screen outside of television's Batman: The Animated Series in the nineties. The Scarecrow was significant as his modus operandi was to spawn terror, and getting over your fears was precisely what Bale's Bruce Wayne must do, be that his own shame at causing his parents' death (a subtle twist on the origin) or squaring up against the rogue's gallery he would soon be encountering, mainly The Joker in The Dark Knight and Bane in The Dark Knight Rises.
It was all there in the vigilante handbook, the catharsis of violence for justice, the harrowing trigger for the actions, and going above the law to ensure the aforementioned justice is served, which not coincidentally would be what pretty much every other superhero would do ever afterwards. Batman was different in that he had no fantasy power, he had his intellect, his physicality and, as Ben Affleck quipped in 2017's Justice League, he was "rich", which is a superpower in itself when he could afford any hardware he wanted. But where did this leave the movies where the good guy sets out onto the streets with nothing but his gun? If the poor response to Eli Roth's 2018 Death Wish was any indication, going nowhere fast, as few were impressed by Bruce Willis in the Bronson role, though ironically Batman's butler Alfred, Michael Caine, had headlined his own vigilante effort Harry Brown in 2009, part of a minor flurry of British smaller budget items in that vein. That said, the idea of one person taking it upon themselves to mete out retribution on the scum of this world is too attractive a fiction to lie dormant. Even when the superheroes fade, vigilantes in the movies will still be around.