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Vigilante Force (1976)
An interesting but time-bound movie
This film may seem empty-headed and trashy today, but I'm not sure it should have been dismissed so lightly when it was released in the spring of 1976. The Vietnam war had been called to an inconclusive halt only a few years before. Returning veterans were not always greeted with open arms. The stress of war was not recognized or treated the way it is today. Thus the stereotype of the antisocial veteran came into play. That Independence Day shootout struck me as bringing the war back home.
Pres. Nixon's resignation in the aftermath of the Watergate break-in and cover-up had left much of the nation disillusioned with government. Nixon's successor even pardoned him. When the movie was released, presidential primaries were already underway. There was no longer confidence that corruption could not reach the very top of government. Indeed, it probably already had.
Finally, the bicentennial of the Declaration of Independence was the day the story ended. Given the huge attention that was given to the bicentennial, this could not possibly have been a coincidence. The entire film could easily be understood as an extended metaphor for the state of our country at that moment. That is the subtext that might elude viewers thirty years later.
Sure, the movie is a fine romp, but it goes out of its way to be nasty. The last few killings and the departure of the women signal the departure of any hope for a peaceable resolution. The only way out was bloody revolution, conflagration, and a new beginning--if there was anything left to begin from.
For other films with this perspective from 1975-76, see "Nashville" and "Taxi Driver."
A promising premise failed.
"FAQs" has a daring concept, but it is almost irretrievably lost by its amateurish execution. The film is about the construction of a family of throw-away teens rescued and mentored by a flamboyant drag queen/pornographer named Destiny (Allan Lewis). It boldly portrays the grittiness one would imagine such a situation would entail. The characters' resentment of their past abuses is palpable in every scene, and the film never compromises its heroes or its message. It's not a wimpy film.
The major strength of the film is Lewis's deft performance as Destiny. His portrayal brings out both Destiny's power and her vulnerability. The viewer can sympathize with her while disagreeing with some of her judgments and admire her without adopting her attitudes wholesale.
The other outstanding element of the film was the music. It supported the action of the film beautifully without intruding and calling attention to itself.
Virtually everything else about the film was lacking. The dialog was uneven, sententious, and often artificial. The pace was ponderous, all the more so because of the long, dead silence between many of the lines. I suspect some of these silences could have been corrected by editing, but in many of the running takes, the actors simply didn't pick up their lines. Apart from Lewis, the actors were uneven at best in their performances.
Finally, the film looks awful and sounds worse. I finally gave up trying to find an appropriate volume and turned on the subtitles.
If one is looking for an angry gay film well-made on a low budget, one might settle on "The Living End." Because "FAQs" has a more promising premise, I couldn't abandon it. I really wanted to like it, but ultimately it was a huge disappointment.