In a Nutshell: A gritty action thriller that primarily works.
I remember as a kid looking at the iconic vhs cover art on the shelves of our local rental store. Even though I thought the cover was catchy and cool as hell looking, the movie somehow managed to slip past me until recently. I had moderately high expectations for it and I can gladly say it met most of them.
Michael Jefferson saved John Eastland’s life while they were pow’s in Vietnam. Now they are back in New York City working at a meat packing plant. Michael gets mugged and permanently crippled by some local thugs he had a run in with earlier. John then decides to get revenge for his buddy and takes on a persona known as “The Exterminator.” Getting revenge is not enough for him, he’s also on a mission to exterminate the scum of New York City. Hot on his trail are gang members, the mafia, a brazen cop and the CIA.
The movie starts off with a bang with a cool Pow action sequence in Vietnam with the buddies escaping. After a cool beheading the movies then transports the viewer to New York City. I love 70’s and 80’s films that are based in New York. They just ooze sleaziness that no other city or era quite captures. All the billboards, drug dealers, hookers, gang members walking around-ah it just can’t be beat. The movie was destined for greatness from the start but there are two main things that prevent it from reaching that level for me.
The main character John Eastland (Robert Gintry) is just not that charismatic of an actor in this role. Normally this wouldn’t bother me but his buddy Michael (Steve James), just excretes charisma thus making Robert stick out even more. It makes you wish the roles were reversed and that Steve James was the main lead. Also the other main lead, Detective James Dalton (Christopher George), is also a stand out actor and I ended up caring more for his character than I did for the Exterminator. But to be totally fair the character of John Eastland wasn’t that fleshed out and he rarely interacted with people except for a few lines here and there.
Now the ass kicking or action as you will, was pretty sweet. Even though nothing was graphic, one dude gets meat grindered up, gun shots and some cool car crashes. The highlight of the film was a scene where this sick fuck that rapes boys and tortures women gets his up and commings. The aftermath of what happened to him looked pretty gnarly. The movie’s not action packed but it has a nice deliberate pace to it. I thought it was a solid job of spreading the screen time between the different faction of characters.
Finally what stops this movie of making it to the “classic” category is the ending. After all this ass kicking and car chases with the baddies, there is a very quick wrapup. Just a few shots fired instead of some type of of showdown or something dramatic to bring it all to a head. Very disappointing. It did leave it open for a sequel which apparently has been made but not yet released on dvd. Despite it’s faults I think it’s a definite recommend for cult and action lovers out there. A combo blu ray/dvd is available from Synapse Films on Sep 13, 2011.
Final Rating: 7/10