Abel Ferrara – The Gladiator (1986)

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Plot Synopsis by T Battye from imdb:
A homicidal maniac is on the loose, killing motorists at random in his “death car” – after losing his brother to the twisted assassin “Skull”, Rick Benten becomes a vigilante, and takes it upon himself to hunt down the reckless drivers that fill the streets at night. Being a master mechanic, Rick spends his time converting his pickup truck into an armed and dangerous vehicle – with speed to take on the fastest car, and strength to make sure in a one-on-one situation, he will be the only survivor. The cops soon find out about the vigilante known only as the “Gladiator” and do all they can to catch him before his citizen’s arrests go one step too far – but will they find the Gladiator before the Gladiator finds Skull? When the two finally meet, it’s a duel to the death and maybe an end to Rick’s career as the vigilante.

Plot Synopsis by T Battye from imdb:

A homicidal maniac is on the loose, killing motorists at random in his “death car” – after losing his brother to the twisted assassin “Skull”, Rick Benten becomes a vigilante, and takes it upon himself to hunt down the reckless drivers that fill the streets at night. Being a master mechanic, Rick spends his time converting his pickup truck into an armed and dangerous vehicle – with speed to take on the fastest car, and strength to make sure in a one-on-one situation, he will be the only survivor. The cops soon find out about the vigilante known only as the “Gladiator” and do all they can to catch him before his citizen’s arrests go one step too far – but will they find the Gladiator before the Gladiator finds Skull? When the two finally meet, it’s a duel to the death and maybe an end to Rick’s career as the vigilante.

Review by Woodyanders from imdb:

When one thinks of the singularly raw, gritty and hard-hitting cinema of Abel Ferrara (who’s rough’n’tumble films include “Driller Killer,” “Ms.45,” and “Bad Lieutenant”), several scattered idiot box credits aren’t the first thing to spring to mind. But back in the mid-80’s the often fiercely indie and underground Ferrara briefly went mainstream and somehow wormed his way onto the boob tube, where he directed the “Crime Story” pilot, a few episodes of “Miami Vice,” and this fairly generic, yet miraculously rough-edged and compelling made-for-TV feature. Ken Wahl of “Wiseguy” TV show fame gives a somewhat stolid, but overall acceptable and engaging performance as an amiably zhlubby blue collar ordinary shmoe ace automobile mechanic whose younger brother gets killed by a drunk driver in a sinister black muscle car. Haunted by his bro’s untimely death and angry as all hell, Wahl builds himself a lethal souped-up tow truck, hits the dark, hazy, perilous Los Angeles nocturnal streets looking for that spooky muscle car, and winds up becoming a self-appointed vigilante who takes out all those leering, unruly, bellicose, recklessly inebriated killers on wheels who pose a general threat to decent, law-abiding folks on the road with them. Naturally the cops want to nail Wahl real quick and the media turns him into a folk hero.

Okay, so the plot is little more than a vehicular “Death Wish” variant crossed with “Duel” and the picture does suffer somewhat from unavoidable mild’n’middlebrow TV movie sanitizing (the sporadic sappy pop-slop tunes mewling away on the soundtrack are especially irritating), but Ferrara’s strong, sturdy and stylish direction certainly compensates for these minor flaws. As usual with Ferrara, he takes a provocative questioning stance with the obsessive, tormented protagonist, vigilantism is properly addressed as the knotty, nothing remotely simple or easy about it issue that it really is, James Lemmo’s slick, polished, glittering neon-hued cinematography vividly depicts a luridly gleaming nighttime atmosphere, and the palpable evocation of the scary, forbidding and dangerous urban hellhole jungle setting positively seethes with a frightfully omnipresent menace. Moreover, there are fine supporting turns by Nancy Allen as a sweet radio talk show host, the always reliable Robert Culp as a hard-nosed detective, and Stan Shaw as Wahl’s nice dude best buddy, David Frank supplies an effectively spare, shivery, jazz-flavored score, and the final showdown between Wahl and the muscle car delivers the pulse-pounding, heart-stopping, metal-mangling auto-to-auto stand-off goods. Sure, it’s not exactly one of Ferrara’s best-ever offerings, but this generally solid and satisfying item sure ain’t no lemon, either.



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no pass

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