The Exterminator (1980) Review
*** ½ Out of 5
Tagline- The Man They Pushed Too Far
Release Date- September 19th, 1980
Running Time- 101-Minutes
Writer/Director- James Glickenhaus
Starring- Christopher George, Samantha Eggar, Steve James and Robert Ginty
Released in 1980 this exploitation vigilante movie has all the right ideas, but the execution though is slightly off at times. After an attack on that leaves his best friend paralyzed John Eastland (Ginty) gets revenge on those responsible, but then begins to clean up the streets vigilante style.
The screenplay by James Glickenhaus is solid and the random acts of vigilante justice while justified suffers from no explanation on why suddenly John has had enough of the crime in NY. While one can make sense out of his attack on the gang the rest of his actions don’t really make sense. There is also a subplot dealing with political corruption and while this could have been an interesting angle it seems as more of a filler and in the end seems rather pointless. If anything the script has a number of plot devices and any of these could have worked as the main plot as Eastland besides the gang also targets a mob boss and pedophile, which in some ways can hinder the script, but in other ways elevates it over many other vigilante films. Unlike many vigilante films there is no inner struggle on Eastland’s decision to clean up the streets and even after his first act of vengeance there is no regret. Regardless of some flaws James Glickenhaus delivers an excellent screenplay that is socially relevant to this day and despite any problems I may have had, the Exterminator is well written.
As director James Glickenhaus delivers a solid film that even decades later holds up as a powerful film. The pacing is for the most part strong, but there are some scenes where the pacing can lag. The action scenes are violent and well crafted and Glickenhaus delivers an excellent gritty film that packs a punch and is one of my favorite exploitation and vigilante films.
Michael Ginty is excellent as the vigilante and he seems to be a bit off his rocker and while more could have been done with the character Ginty does well in the role and Christopher George is a bit under used as Detective Dalton, but his scenes can also at times bring about some pacing issues, but George is always a joy to watch and he’s such a great actor that even if his scenes at time can slow things down I’m still glad he’s part of the film.
Overall The Exterminator is an excellent film that rather than focus on one plot uses a couple and while it may not always be perfect due to that, but it does help the film standout and while many have compared this to Death Wish, the Exterminator is actually quite different. Despite both being vigilante films set in New York, Exterminator has been unfairly labeled a knockoff. Overall its not a perfect film and like I said as well paced as the film is there are some sluggish moments, but for the most part it’s an excellent and gritty film with great action scenes.