When John Eastland’s best friend, Michael Jefferson, is mugged and left permanently crippled, he decides to do something about it. Jefferson had saved Eastland’s life in Vietnam and now it’s time for Eastland to get revenge for his friend. Using his old Army gear he sets out on a crusade to clean up the streets of New York using the name “The Exterminator.”
David Bongo <[email protected]>
User Reviews: James Glickenhaus certainly had a stone cold vision of what he wanted when he made this gritty film in the waning days of the Carter administration about a Vietnam vet who goes on a man hunt for the worst society has to offer.
What immediately becomes evident when seeing The Exterminator is that the violence and subject matter are completely uncompromising; disturbingly realistic at times, over the top and sadistic at others. But the story is well written and mature and I have a hard time throwing the ‘exploitation’ label at this film like some others do; it is definitely a few steps ahead of some tongue in cheek Cannon Films fodder. At the core of the story is a true friendship between two Vietnam buddies; a bachelor named John Eastland, and a family man named Michael Jefferson (who is black, which adds an interesting social dynamic to this older film and has significance in a couple of scenes). The two are law abiding working class guys living in crime infested 1980’s New York City.
Once this solid premise is developed, the film more or less follows the typical vigilante- revenge formula, albeit in a really brutal, and at times, heart-breaking way. The thing that saves this movie from being just a Death Wish 1.5 is the inclusion of a parallel story about the upcoming ‘elections’ and the perceived soft-on-crime stance the current administration has promoted. The conservative views of the films writer-director really come into play with this subplot, as a couple of CIA operatives are intent on keeping a lid on any person that would show the ineffective nature of a more liberal justice system, especially just around election time.
The Exterminator is clearly a prototype for the style of action movies that came to dominate during the Reagan administration, in it’s decidedly conservative stance and it’s excessive use of R violence, but the slower pacing and cinematography, and bleak outlook at modern society tie this film more to the 1970’s style. The music is haunting and low key and really adds to the dark feel of the film. A good surprise ending keeps the story from becoming too predictable, but leaves a lot of loose ends, perhaps not a bad thing. But avoid the trashy and simplistic sequel which has nothing to do with James Glickenhaus or his style.