Vigilante Force

A private security force attached to the political structure of a small oil-and-farming town, where the mayor is also the bartender at a popular saloon, quells the rowdy oil men but deals in murder, shakedowns and drugs.

They are met with force in a final shootout, which extends from their compound and abandoned buildings to the oil fields, where the leader (Kris Kristofferson) dies in flames, shot by his own brother (Jan-Michael Vincent), whose girl (Victoria Principal) is one of the dead, killed by the leader himself in broad daylight.

The main idea is of a superstructure of crime added to the plague of lawlessness that besets the town. A humorous stylistic tension carries this between the objective material of the screenplay and on the other hand oil men filmed like movie cowboys brawling, or the prodigious stunt work at the end (falling out of buildings, bouncing off things).

Armitage has a long shot of Vincent approaching the compound before the end, then a handheld POV as he walks up to the prone body of the town chief of police (Judson Pratt). A bicentennial parade puts the security force in red marching-band uniforms for the shootout, and among the gags is the old lady saying grace, “thanks for nothing,” upon which the house is raided by them.

An amazing array (Brad Dexter, Bernadette Peters, Antony Carbone, Jimmy Lydon) in front and behind (William Cronjager, Buddy Joe Hooker, Gerald Fried) the camera have this easily in hand. Armitage is possessed of a very easy skill with special effects and stunts, it’s just as dramatically effective to light a police car on fire and pump rounds into it, as the oil men do in the opening, as to blow it sky-high, economic constraint being a great teacher, in that respect, of cinematic virtues.


Grosse Pointe Blank

A former government assassin now working out of his own office with a secretary takes the girl he left behind to their 10-year high school reunion. Two NSA men are waiting for him to complete his latest assignment so they can put him out of action, a rival presses him to join the union, a terrorist gun for hire has a contract on him.

The high school bully runs a BMW dealership and writes simpering verses, one of his former victims is a client and sells real estate (the assassin’s childhood home is now a Unimart).

The gun for hire is killed with a ballpoint pen, wrapped in high school banners and dumped in the school’s furnace. The assassin opens his assignment packet and sees a dossier on the girl’s father. The union man takes it upon himself to do this job and liquidate the assassin, who defends the target from a general assault, after which he marries the girl and leaves Grosse Pointe, having closed his office with liberal severance pay for his secretary.