Tommy takes up temporary housing in a New York neighborhood plagued by a violent gang called the Souls. Tommy is waiting for his next assignment as a seaman and though he tries to avoid the... See full summary »



(screenplay), (story) | 1 more credit »

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Cast overview, first billed only:
Tommy (as Jan Michael Vincent)
Angel Cruz
Lenny Montana ...
Santos Morales ...
Don Blakely ...
James Victor ...
Father Rivera
Randy Hermann ...
Tito (as Randy Herman)
Lee Fraser ...
Bandana (as Lee Yuro)
Karenski (as Joe Campanella)
Fernando López ...
Kid (as Fernando Lopez)
Slagg (as Alberto Vasquez)


Tommy takes up temporary housing in a New York neighborhood plagued by a violent gang called the Souls. Tommy is waiting for his next assignment as a seaman and though he tries to avoid the gang and his neighbors, it does not work. Soon he is battling the Souls and not only changing their attitudes, but the attitudes of his previously intimidated neighbors as well. Written by Ørnås

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


There comes a time when we have to stand up and be counted. This is the story of one man who did.


Action | Drama | Crime


PG | See all certifications »




Release Date:

14 March 1980 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

A Pele de um Malandro  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?


Because of this film Theresa Saldana gained a stalker. The Stalker stabbed her ten times in the torso. Theresa survived and went on to play herself in a Television Movie based on the events. See more »


After Tom Gamble is mugged by The Souls in the station bathroom, one of them walks by Angel Cruz twice. See more »


Referenced in The Cinema Snob: Breakin' (2016) See more »


Bad Times
Composed by Gerard McMahon
Performed by Gerard McMahon
See more »

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User Reviews

A Cult Gem With Heart
16 May 2003 | by (Los Angeles) – See all my reviews

For me, DEFIANCE was/is a film that delivered. Is it 'high art'?--I dunno. But it sure held my interest. JMV is our reluctant hero, 'Tom'. A merchant seaman, stranded in New York because of a beef on the job, near penniless Tom is forced to seek cheap digs in a slum rental while he waits for another ship assignment. He quickly crosses paths with 'The Souls', the Latino gang that holds the neighborhood in a grip of terror.

Tom is no white knight or crusader. A world weary pragmatist, he's just a guy trying to keep to himself until he can catch that much-needed next freighter out to sea. Though not an immediate champion of justice, neither is Tom indifferent to the suffering of others and gradually he finds himself being drawn into the lives of several of the local residents.

It is the leader of the Souls gang, 'Angel', with his determination to maintain his grip on his turf, and interloper Tom, with his stubborn refusal to abandon his newly made friends, who ignite the inevitable final--and highly satisfying--confrontation.

Is DEFIANCE a film filled with startling plot twists and dazzling production value? No. But I found it to be highly entertaining with real sincerity--and it continues to please me after repeated viewings. All hands involved in this production deserve praise for working within their limited budget to craft a tough, tender and edgy action/drama where an average fella, who cannot ignore his heart, takes a huge risk to correct a great injustice.

Is it SHANE?--Naw. (But what is?) I will tell you this: this flick delivers a whole fist-full of solid scenes. Fer instance: the moment when Tom draws his 'line in the sand'. Waiting until cover of darkness, Tom strides out of the shadows, club in hand, and begins to demolish Angel's beloved 'low rider' as an invitation to the gang--"Come and get me."

That scene works on EVERY level: script, direction, photography, JMV's smoldering fury, the startling, hot musical score that punctuates the moment--IT ALL WORKS! It gave me goose bumps the first time and it still gives me a kick to this day. DEFIANCE had me in it's grip: "Yeah, Tom! Screw the consequences! Let's take it to these vicious punks."

This flick never had anywhere near the budget or status of say, a DIE HARD, but it sure has the heart. In the early '80s, as I lived in my tiny apartment in Hollywood and struggled to write, I kept a tattered DEFIANCE poster tacked to my wall for inspiration.

DEFIANCE: a solid, commendable script, in the hands of a no-nonsense, focused director, who's leading a sincere and supportive cast--all in pursuit of a simple, but meaningful, action/morality tale that can't help but touch you on some level if you believe in justice and decency. Not too shabby, folks. Not too shabby at all.

Now I just wish somebody would get DEFIANCE onto a proper DVD (and throw in a few extras like cast/crew interviews, a trailer, maybe even some out-takes). I'd buy a copy in a heartbeat. And five more for some friends.

15 of 19 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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