Written by / 2/28/2016 / No comments / , , , , , , , ,

JAN-MICHAEL VINCENT & KRIS KRISTOFFERSON 'VIGILANTE FORCE'

Jan-Michael Vincent in Vigilante Force YEAR: 1976
A movie in which low-budget Roger Corman... actually his brother Gene... gets to blow big bullet holes into two of Hollywood's most hated things, at that time, 1976...

The first, Vietnam, in which Kris Kristofferson's Aaron, older brother to Jan-Michal Vincent as Ben, is a tough, no-nonsense veteran of...

And then Big Oil, where a boom has occurred in the small-town where Vincent's Ben and his family reside, and that we learn Aaron was never too fond of, pre-war, which was nothing compared to the new oil-crazed drunks causing bloody havoc, from shooting cops in the street to causing your typical bar fights as the local law is down to four men, who have little to no control... of anything....

Blu Ray Cover for VIGILANTE FORCE
Like the Joel McCrea Western, WICHITA and just about every other episode of GUNSMOKE, where cowboys cause havoc but spend tons of saloon money and are great for business, it's a catch-22 situation...

The powers that be don't like the trouble but they don't want it cured, which is gonna happen after Jan-Michael's initial conversation with a few important townsfolk, including Film Noir veteran Brad Dexter as a Sheriff who lost his power but still wants a piece of the money-making action...

Importantly leading to a fond reunion with big bro, Aaron, who, as mentioned, is fresh from Vietnam and, working a crappy warehouse job, gets offered a really good one: not for the paycheck, but with a few other veterans helping out, including future John Carpenter regular Charles Cyphers and BREAKFAST CLUB bully-teacher Paul Gleason, things don't go as planned. Meanwhile, Gleason gets a chance to knock around Ben's best girl, Linda, played by the gorgeous Victoria Principle who would, in two year's time, co-star in an epic television series in which she's smitten (first engaged and then married to) a handsome, good-natured earthy type with a twisted older brother: all having to do with oil.

The original cover, now the inside
What makes VIGILANTE FORCE so great is how subtle and smooth the important, game-changing transition occurs as the initial and potentially good skills of Aaron takes quick care of the ugly, and from there, things go from bad to worse: kind of like a Third World Country Revolution (Cuba, anyone?), basically replacing Lucifer with The Devil.

"Smile, Pammy!"
And while it doesn't take long for Kris to take over in a thoroughly violent fashion, shooting a guy over being argumentative during an illegal chicken fight bust and later, having a HIGH NOON yet indoors showdown with the Sheriff...

Eventually brawling with his faithful, loving brother who tried to give him a second chance... but a desperate Jan has to gather up his own group of misfits to literally "fire" the man hired for the job: resulting in a sort of corny scrappy-underdog army followed by a James Cagney WHITE HEAT climax homage with tacked-on special effects.

Don't you, forget about Gleason
And going back to sum things up, FORCE is not that predictable when the seemingly heroic vet turns into pure monstrosity. Kris seems like a cool dude at first... Hell, during that time, other than BRING ME THE HEAD OF ALFREDO GARCIA, Kris was usually rooted for by the dudes and lusted after by the ladies. In fact, some of the best scenes occur during the more pivotal, ambiguous scenes when, partnered-up with a shocked yet satisfied little bro, he takes down the frenzied oil freaks like some kind of hopped-up WALKING TALL soldier hippie given a badge wielding limitless, and ultimately misused, power.

Loni Anderson and Andrew Stevens in Vigilante Force
And while Jan-Michael Vincent is a bit wasted in a secondary, too perfectly non-conflicted role where the heavy shines much brighter than the peripheral light at the end of the explosive/exploitation tunnel, with his usual confident square-jawed bravado at the 11th hour...

Here's where we get not only the best of both worlds involving two incredible cult actors but a quirky/cute (if often annoying) second role (following THE LONGEST YARD) by Bernadette Peters, and cameos by the likes of a redheaded bad luck charm Loni Anderson setting up the more important Andrew Stevens House in a gambling joint: the latter who should have had a much bigger part... Ironically, the same can be said of Jan-Michael. But if Kris is the man, you get two of him here!
"I like you a whole lot, but, right about now, the Man from Atlantis is getting prepared for land and, well, um..."

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