Fighting Back


Action / Crime / Drama / Thriller

Rotten Tomatoes Critics - Rotten 20%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience - Spilled 40%
IMDb Rating 6.0 10 545

philadelphia, pennsylvania

Plot summary

Uploaded by: FREEMAN


Top cast

Tom Skerritt as John D'Angelo
Ted Ross as Commissioner
David Rasche as Michael Taylor
Patti LuPone as Lisa D'Angelo

Movie Reviews

Reviewed by Coventry 8 / 10

Streets of Philadelphia … The grim, early 80's vigilante edition

First of all I concur with all my fellow reviewers who can't seem to fathom that "Death Vengeance" is still so underrated, unknown and unavailable on DVD. This is a cult movie in the purest definition of the term, for crying out loud, with an acclaimed director and cast and a harshly realist subject that is applicable to all times and all big cities! Even more so, there were most vigilante thrillers all too easily revert to crowd-pleasing violence (Charlie Bronson's "Death Wish" being the best example of this), at least "Death Vengeance" attempts to remain more rational, with ordinary characters, dramatic sub plots, politically engaged and socially relevant. Tom Skerritt, in one of his best performances ever, stars as the Italian-American John D'Angelo who owns a deli shop in the roughest and most crime-infested neighborhood in Philadelphia. Following a couple of dramatic incidents where his wife lost their unborn baby and his mother her ring finger, John mobilizes his fellow petrified neighbors into founding the People's Neighbourhood Patrol. In a relatively short time, they free the park and streets around their houses of muggers, drug dealers, pimps and prostitutes and organized crime. Even though John's family life suffers under his obsession and he often has difficulties of drawing the line between what's legal and what's not, his achievements grow increasingly important. So important even, that the current mayor fears John to become an unbeatable rival in the next elections. "Death Vengeance" is a strong and compelling revenge/vigilante thriller with the emphasis on character development and grim atmosphere. The sequences where John D'Angelo confronts Ivanhoe Washington (a black volunteer who tries to keep petty criminals off the streets) are equally important as the sequences where the vigilantes battle hardcore thugs in the park. For the real die-hard fanatics of grisly early 80's cult cinema, "Death Vengeance" has quite a lot of brutal images to offer as well, like the drug store hold-up, but the violence never becomes gratuitous or overly exploitative. That alone is a remarkable accomplishment of director Lewis Teague ("Alligator", "Cujo"). The supportive cast is excellent as well, with Michael Sarrazin ("The Reincarnation of Peter Proud"), Yaphet Kotto ("Across 110th Street") and David "Sledge Hammer" Rasche! Is there an online petition anywhere to release this gem on DVD that I can sign?

Reviewed by HaemovoreRex 7 / 10

Taking back the neighbourhood.......

Here's an almost criminally forgotten post Death Wish gem from director Lewis Teague.

Whilst perhaps not as violent, nor as rewarding purely entertainment wise as the aforementioned pinnacle of the vigilante/revenge genre, this film approaches the issue of taking the law into one's own hands in a very different (and perhaps more realistic) manner and succeeds in delivering a solid ninety or so minutes of highly gripping viewing.

The always superb Tom Skerrit headlines as Michael D'Angelo, a humble greengrocer who is pushed too far by a series of brutal events and who subsequently decides to fight back by setting up a citizens patrol force in order to clean up the area in which he lives. Not giving too much away, but fuelled by his anger at the both the suffering of those around him and additionally the blatant inefficiency of the police force to tidy up the neighbourhood, Michael's methods are very hands on, leading to a number of violent altercations with the criminal denizens in the district.

Despite the nature of the subject material (perfect exploitation fodder), the director and cast performances manage to instill a far deeper sentiment into this than that usually found in a typical vigilante/revenge flick of the era. In fact, far from a simple tale of one mans war on crime, this serves in effect as a fascinating study of the social degeneration and general feeling of hopelessness, powerlessness and despair so prevalent in today's society at the escalating crime statistics and inefficacy of the law system to punish those responsible. The simple message is that together, as communities we can unite and turn the tide against this abject unhappiness for both ourselves and indeed future generations.

Rousing stuff indeed and highly recommended.

Reviewed by lost-in-limbo 7 / 10

"Remember this business is all about favours."

Oh here we go again, another low-budget vigilante feature of someone trying to make a difference. Actually I enjoy these types of features, no matter how well-worn or rancid they can be. However "Fighting Back" was a surprisingly effective if mildly realistic piece (up until a point), while not always fulfilling it did provoke some harsh and lasting set-pieces with a barnstorming performance by Tom Skerritt. It kind of crosses paths with films such as; "Death Wish" (1974), "Boardwalk" (1979) and "Vigilante" (1983). While scathingly violent and exploitative, its messages are obvious (especially the use of Yaphet Kotto's pointless character) and ambitiously put across with a multi-facet bunch of central characters that are thoroughly illustrated and this helps make the situations deliver on the impact. There's a lot more food for thought here, but it kind of over does towards the end.

After an incident involving a pimp and his elderly mother ending up injured in a hold up, John D'Angelo finally has had enough of the crime suffocating his community. With the support of friends and neighbours he organises the People's Neighbourhood Patrol to protect their lifestyles. Dressed up in uniforms (caps, bubble vests and wooden bats) and their own patrol car ("Ghostbusters" anyone?). The only way to do it is to fight fire with fire, but still staying in the boundaries of the law. This gets on the nerves of the local police, upsets worried politicians and only aggravates the street gangs, especially the pimp he crossed paths with.

What starts off basic, than moves away into political territory and the problems that face the D'Angelo character (things getting out of hand). Where soon he becomes self-obsessed and pinned-down with his campaign, where judgements are clouded, hot-headed confrontations erupt and his wife's (Patti LuPone) well-being for her family is discarded. Skerritt's character is not particularly sympathetic either, as from what he's doing he becomes news --- popularity sky rockets --- a people's hero --- why not run for office. So he does. Michael Sarrazin is excellent in the role as D'Angelo's friend, who just happens to be a cop. Sarrazin's character is much more agreeable in his motives.

Director Lewis Teague ("Alligator (1980)", "Cujo (1983)") does a respectably stark and gritty job capturing the urban decay and crime-riddled environment. There's a tit for tat structure to the group doing their rounds, but the constant beatings are excitingly gripping ""Nobody laughs at my momma!". There's one sequence where a fast food outlet owner just happens to have a battle axe(!?) stored away, when D'Angelo comes a knocking. The pacing is rapid and some scenes are highly charged, although the ending (D'Angelo and the Pimp) does feel so anti-climatic.

"Fighting Back" has its feet in both camps; exploitative but also contemplative.

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