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Defiance (1980)

If I didn’t know better I would have thought I had just watched Death Wish 3.

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Jan-Michael Vincent stars in this rather tame vigilante film from director John Flynn. Tame that is when compared to the above mentioned Death Wish franchise.

Vincent arrives in New York city by way of ship. He’s a sailor waiting for his next job assignment from company man Joseph Campanella. In the meantime he moves into a neighborhood overrun by a gang of thugs led by a very effective Rudy Ramos. Ramos has the citizens so terrified they don’t dare name names to the police for fear of retribution.

Among the locals we have some well known faces including Danny Aiello, Art Carney and our love interest, Theresa Saldana. Vincent continues to turn a blind eye to the criminal proceedings which even includes a beating he receives from the Ramos gang. He just wants to grab a ship and get out of town.

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Vincent changes his stance when Lenny Montana aka Luca Brasi from The Godfather is found murdered. He doesn’t need a detective to tell him who committed the crime. No Luca’s not sleeping with the fishes this time out but rather lying with the garbage.

From here the film becomes a question of bravery. Who is going to stand alongside our young crime fighter besides Danny Aiello. Like Death Wish 3, maybe the neighborhood can band together and create an army to put down the Ramos gang minus the overwhelming gun play of Michael Winner’s excessive third film in the Bronson series.

I picked this one up on VHS tape and finally got around to watching it. While the vigilante film has never really gone out of style in one form or another, it was definitely in it’s peak years from 1974 through about 1985. Vincent had actually starred in a 1976 film titled Vigilante Force prior to this. Fighting Back was another similarly themed film from 1982 with Tom Skerritt who even looks somewhat like Charles Bronson.

Art Carney turns up here as the kindly shop keeper while Aiello is the married man trying to raise his family and keep the streets safe. Nice role here for Saldana who I have only seen in Raging Bull and The Evil That Men Do which is once again a variation on the vigilante theme with the master of the genre himself.

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The director John Flynn has had some hits and misses over the course of his career but is responsible for giving us the dynamic revenge/vigilante flick Rolling Thunder. He also directed a film I like to mention titled Best Seller in 1987 starring Brian Dennehy and James Woods.

As for Defiance, it’s nice to see Jan-Michael Vincent from his early days before his career went spiraling off the track. Growing up he was an actor I kept my eye on due to his film roles opposite some heavy hitters like Bronson and Mitchum. Now if I can just pick up a copy of White Line Fever. Haven’t seen it in years.

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