Blu-ray Review: A Vigilante (2018)

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For Now She Dances: Part One

Written and directed by women, two feature filmmaking debuts centered on female vigilante badassery were released this week. Involving not only the same jumping off point of a world  — in both, upstate New York — where men who wrong women go unpunished but similar themes as well, the two cathartic films allow us to live vicariously through their anti-heroines as they scream, dance, and fight their way back to life with various levels of success. Come along on their journey and click here to read the review of #Like.

A Vigilante Review:

"Love, I feel like it was gone, gone, gone, gone 
Let's do this like a prison break 
I want to see you scream and shake." 

Sadie keeps a fork in the door and a knife under her pillow. Tomorrow she'll fight but for now she dances with abandon to remind herself of her humanity at a time when color has been drained out of her world.

With tight, graphic novel like frames and minimal external light, the hues of writer-director Sarah Daggar-Nickson's feature filmmaking debut are dulled down as if every shot had been captured, filtered, and then washed over by a sea of gray paint.

Keeping us with Sadie (Olivia Wilde) every step of the way, as she keeps moving so does the cinematographer's camera, zooming in claustrophobically close to watch her make her way from one abusive home to the next to deliver a darkly inspiring sense of justice to the world.

"I know what you do to her," she tells a wife-beating husband at the start of the movie in a voice that's loaded with experience.

Facilitating transfers of titles, bank accounts, and job resignations to remove (largely male) abusers from dangerous home situations, Sadie gives the first man we see onscreen a warning that if he bothers his wife and kids again, she'll kill him, adding sincerely, "I want to kill you."

Cutting through the drama to reach the truth of the scene at once, with that chilling line delivery, Wilde lets us know that yes, not only is this extremely personal, but she's also dancing precariously to the border of chaos and control.

Alone back in her cheap motel room with a fork in the door and that day's inevitable disguise off, we get our confirmation as to just what life must be like for Sadie when the camera focuses on a series of hellish scars on her upper back right before she has a panic attack.

"We're going to keep it in the family
Yeah, well, even though we're on the run." 

Playing a victim of both abuse and PTSD who travels from one place to another to try and build a better ending to someone else's story rather than dwell on her own, Wilde gives a masterful performance in the film and completely loses herself in her role. Likewise, steeped in authenticity and featuring the stories and words of real support group participants, the film is as haunting as it is riveting.

Swinging like a pendulum from various moments in time in Sadie's life, long before it reaches its inevitable — albeit meanderingly overlong — conclusion, it runs out of narrative gas about midway through. Unfortunately, you get the sense that as well-intentioned as it is, A Vigilante would have been much more successful had the director fallen back on the skills in her past and turned it into a longer short.

Produced by its star and released on disc and demand a week after Olivia Wilde's own female-centric directorial debut Booksmart hit theaters, rather than build the plot like a traditional genre film, we are served up one searing, unflinching look at the worst impulses of man throughout, for better and worse.

And although it's recommended more on its premise than its overall execution as it loses and confuses us in places with its time jumps, Wilde, in her tour de force performance as Sadie stays strong.

Closing herself off with her knife and fork, she reminds herself she's human in between beatdowns, moving with intensity — while losing herself to a Yeah Yeah Yeahs beat — as she waits for tomorrow.

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