When a police force is too corrupt or useless to clean up the streets, someone takes the law into their own hands to bring justice to the land.
The interesting thing about vigilantes is the moral questions they bring up.
Are they any better/different than the criminals they take down? Can violence ever really solve anything?
We run down some of our favourite vigilantes from movies and television.
Connor & Murphy MacManus
It’s rare to get two vigilantes working together, especially brothers but The Boondock Saints pulls it off. Norman Reedus and Sean Patrick Flannery play two Irish brothers that accidentally kill mafia thugs. When they turned themselves in to the police, they were released as heroes. They then see it as a calling by God and start knocking off mafia gang members one by one.
Jimmy Vickers from Vendetta
Danny Dyer gives a career best performance as Jimmy Vickers in last year’s Vendetta; he’s a soldier who comes home to find out that his parents have been brutally murdered by thugs. It would be a great double bill with Harry Brown actually as both characters dispose of their enemies in ruthless fashion. A sequel is also on the way so count me in.
Michael Bloody Caine was born to play the role of Harry Brown; an ex-Marine who takes justice into his own hands when his best friend is murdered in a shitty London estate. The bad guys are such total scum that no matter what he does to them you’ll be cheering him on. Caine is totally badass in this movie and although it’s a tough watch at times, it’s thoroughly satisfying.
John Eastland AKA The Exterminator
Like the Death Wish series, The Exterminator movies are set during the New York is Hell time period where everyone is a criminal and the streets are unsafe, no matter what. When John Eastland’s friend is killed on the streets of New York he transforms into a violent killer, turning New York into a war zone. The second movie is more of a standard action movie but the original Exterminator is as hard as they come. Robert Ginty plays John as sympathetic and also slightly traumatized after a stint in Vietnam; when he returns home to find his city is no longer friendly it’s time to grab a flamethrower.
Robert McCall AKA The Equalizer
Originally played by Edward Woodward in the TV Series of the same name, 2014 saw the return of Robert McCall otherwise known as The Equalizer, this time played by Denzel Washington: a mysterious man with a past who can’t resist helping those in need. He’s not afraid to break limbs when required and has become one of the biggest badasses of 2014.
Personally I found Oliver Queen AKA The Arrow more interesting in Season 1 when he would happily kill bad guys; now he just feels like Batman with a bow and arrow but he’s still suitably awesome. I also like how he uses the bow itself as a weapon and beats the crap out of evil-doers with it. He’s an interesting character Oliver; at first he’s hard to sympathise with as he’s a womanizing jerk but after being shipwrecked on a “Hellish Island” for five years he comes back to Starling City as The Arrow (Not the Green Arrow, for reasons I still don’t understand).
Frank Castle AKA The Punisher
Now Frank is definitely one of the more interesting of the vigilantes because really he isn’t that much nicer than the people he gladly kills. He tortures and murders villains that he thinks deserve it after his family is murdered. His methods are harsh and other superheroes aren’t sure what to think of him at times, but he’s always a lot of fun to watch on screen, be it Dolph Lundgren, Thomas Jane or Ray Stevenson. Personally, I don’t think we have seen the definitive version of Frank Castle on the big screen but I think we just might now that Marvel has the rights to the character once more.
The Death Wish Series is probably the best vigilante movie series as Charles Bronson totally owns the role of Paul Kersey. He starts off as “bleeding heart liberal” but when his family is brutally attacked by thugs, the police are of little use. He decides to take the law into his own hands and clean up the Hellish streets of New York. Sure, the series descends into parody as it goes along and loses the hardcore edge of the first 2 but they are still hugely entertaining. The role was perfect for Bronson because of his stone cold facial expressions, which made him all the more believable as he becomes more ruthless.
Of course he’s going to be my number one; Batman has always been my total hero. I’ve never been hugely into comics but there’s something about Batsy that has drawn me to him. I love the fact that he has no superpowers; in theory he COULD exist if you were a billionaire and slightly nuts. He truly is the best of the vigilantes because he has that one rule: he doesn’t kill. So when you ask if he’s better than the villains he’s trying to stop then the answer is a resounding Hell Yes!
I’ve seen other lists of people’s favourite vigilantes and they have Travis Bickle from Taxi Driver and D-Fens from Falling Down. Bickle may be considered a vigilante but I always considered him more mentally unstable. The same goes for D-Fens (Michael Douglas); he isn’t trying to clean up the streets; he’s just a nutjob that has totally lost the place. Then that brings up the argument, surely people who take justice into their own hands are ALL mentally unstable…