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The Curator of Schlock #23 by Jeffrey Shuster

Fighting Back … Against Insomnia

Yawn. All vigilante movies aren’t created equal. You’d think 1982’s Fighting Back from director Lewis Teague would be a contender with the likes of Death Wish 3 and Vigilante with that fancy black and white poster featuring an angry Tom Skerritt pointing a gun at some street thug.

Fighting Back Poster

That might be the movie’s first problem. I have nothing against Tom Skerritt. I loved him on the David E. Kelly drama Picket Fences, but he’s not conveying a man pushed to the edge. Maybe they hired him for the mustache, figuring theatergoers might confuse him with Bronson.

Maybe it’s also the script. Tom Skerritt plays an Italian-American deli owner by the name of John D’Angelo. He and his family live in Philidelphia where thieves, pimps, prostitutes, muggers, and drug dealers rule the streets. When D’Angelo’s pregnant wife, Lisa, insults one the local pimps, the pimp chases after the D’Angelos, causing a car accident, which results in Lisa losing the baby. If that wasn’t bad enough, a couple of robbers cut off the finger of D’Angelo’s grandmother so they can get her wedding ring.

FIGHTING BACK, Tom Skerritt, 1982. ©Paramount Pictures

D’Angelo has had enough and decides to start up a vigilante group called The People’s Neighborhood Patrol. The police figure the vigilante group is going to do what they’re going to do so they look the other way and even ride around with them sometimes. Also, D’Angelo and his crew don’t really use guns, they just rough the scum up a little bit, try to scare them. This is a lot more sensible than just shooting to kill and even results in the vigilante group gaining support in the eyes of the media and the community. D’Angelo becomes a kind of local hero and even Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz…Sorry. Dozed off there for a sec.

You know, they don’t make movies like they used to, but sometimes that’s a good thing. You know why? Because Fighting Back is quite possibly the most boring vigilante movie ever made. There’s no real shooting or elaborate deaths except for the end when D’Angelo drops a grenade in the pimp’s Cadillac. The thugs are so pedestrian. No bandanas or torn jeans! I think D’Angelo goes after a drug dealer that operates out of a fried chicken restaurant at some point. The local politicians approach D’Angelo to run for city council because they feel the voters will Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

I’m sorry. I can’t do this anymore. Fighting Back isn’t Death Wish. It’s not even Death Wish V: The Face of Death. The movie is completely uninspired and has looks like it was made-for-TV. I’m glad I was able to catch it off Amazon Prime and didn’t have to enter the archives here at the Museum of Schlock. I’ll make it up to guys next week. Time to pull out the big guns. And those big guns will be held by Dolph Lundgren! In the meantime, if you are saying “Enough is enough” to insomnia, flip on Fighting Back.

Five Things I Learned From Fighting Back (You’re lucky I got five out of this one.)

  1. When your grandmother gets her finger cut off with a pair of pliers, she tends to not want to come out the house anymore.
  2. Throwing beer in a bartender’s face is a good way to provoke him.
  3. You can’t watch a Tom Skerritt movie without wondering what he looks like without the mustache.
  4. Mafia dons support vigilantism as long as it’s not against them.
  5. Grenades in water balloons make for an awesome prank.

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Photo by Leslie Salas

Jeffrey Shuster (episode 47) is an MFA candidate and instructor at the University of Central Florida.

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