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Review The Exterminator (1980): Death Wish meets Taxi Driver!

genre: action, crime, drama

Apparently James Glickenhaus wanted to make his own vigilante film like Death Wish but felt the need to go even further and add the psychological elements of Taxi Driver. That being said, don't expect this film to be anywhere near as sophisticated as the titles I just mentioned. However what it lacks in finesse it makes things up with it's darkness and over the top violence.

And as usual with his films Glickenhaus has trouble maintaining a consistent tone and narrative. To be honest compared to his later films this is the most consistent and serious. I must also admit that at the beginning I had some trouble accepting Robert Ginty as the super efficient and tough killer. But he literally transformed into one quite believably. We know that he is heavily traumatized because of his experiences in Vietnam. But he managed to remain low key and composed all this time until his best friend played by Steve James gets assaulted. It's at this time The Exterminator is awakened to dish out vengeance and justice the world deserves. Next to this the cop tasked to catch John Eastland (The Exterminator) is more concerned with romance than serving his sworn duty. It makes little sense but somehow does manage to tie this element into the main story. This cop BTW is played by Christopher George most famous for his role as the main villain in Enter the Ninja. Here he demonstrates to be a fine actor and capable of doing a lot with little. It is therefore a mystery why Glickenhaus gas undermined his performance by having him play out the romance. It really doesn't mash well with the main story.

While some scenes are super brutal and over the top it never felt like it was just there for shock value. It did feel like it was trying to be genuine. Overall The Exterminator is definitely one of the best if not the best films James Glickenhaus has made!

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