Time: 91 Minutes
Olivia Wilde as Sadie
Morgan Spector as Sadie’s Husband
Tonye Patano as Beverly
Judy Marte as Straight Up Shelter Woman
Betsy Aidem as Andrea Shaund
C.J. Wilson as Michael Shaund
Chuck Cooper as Lawyer
Kyle Catlett as Zach
Director: Sarah Dagger-Nickson
A vigilante (Olivia Wilde) helps victims of domestic violence by acting with merciless severity against the perpetrators. The battle-hardened woman never loses sight of her own mission.
I can’t remember how I first heard of A Vigilante, but I remember mainly hearing about how great Olivia Wilde was, and that the movie was pretty good. Outside of that, I really didn’t know anything about the movie going in. Outside of a lacking third act and some roughness, A Vigilante pretty good, well directed and greatly acted by Wilde.
Plenty of people have compared this movie to Lynne Ramsay’s You Were Never Really Here, both follow vigilantes for hire, who experienced some form of trauma in their past, and the movies are low paced character studies of said vigilantes. There are further similarities between the two, but for A Vigilante’s sake, I’ll talk about it as how it works by itself. On paper this could’ve easily been just another revenge fantasy, however it’s very grounded and gritty. It doesn’t really have much of a structure, it just follows Olivia Wilde’s lead character of Sadie throughout. There’s also the treatment of abuse, which this movie could’ve easily failed at, and if it did it would’ve sunk it hugely. However I thought it was done as respectful as possible, making sure to focus on the victims and never turning the attention to the abuse itself. With all that the good that it’s in the first two acts, it’s just unfortunate that the third act isn’t great. I would’ve been fine with the climax still just following Sadie on her encounters, but I could potentially still be on board with the direction they went with for the story. However in this section, it becomes the revenge thriller movie that for the past hour it was trying not to be. I guess it isn’t bad, but it’s a little disappointing and underwhelming, and not like it was intended to.
The movie is worth watching for Olivia Wilde alone, this is a career best performance from her. I’ve seen her in plenty of movies, some of them major movies, but she hadn’t been given a ton of things to work with on her end. A Vigilante is really her movie however, she’s in almost every scene and it’s following her for the entirety of the plot. This relied so much on her bringing something incredible to it, and she absolutely does. The rest of the cast are fine enough but don’t come even close to Wilde’s level, on top of the fact that with every other character you don’t see them in more than a couple scenes. The ‘antagonists’ in the movie are very one note, for much of the movie that’s fine, they’re more often than not abusers that Sadie is hired to deal with. We don’t get to know much about them and we didn’t need to. However there is a singular antagonist in the last act, and either he’s given too much screentime and things to say, or not given enough personality or depth for us to care much about this character in the context of the story. He was more of an annoyance than anything else.
This is writer and director Sarah Daggar-Nickson’s debut film, and she definitely showed her talents well with this movie. The film can feel pretty cold throughout, however it felt appropriate given the character and the tone of the story. As mentioned earlier, A Vigilante is trying to be as realistic as possible. There aren’t any overly stylistic scenes or montages, and although there are portions of composed music played at some points, much of the movie is set to silence. While the violence can be brutal, it’s restrained and yet at the right enough to make you uncomfortable without being exploitive. Even the violence that Wilde delivers onto abusers aren’t shown, so there is no glorification about any of it. As for the thriller aspects in the third act, I guess it was fine but felt somewhat underwhelming, and I can’t tell whether it was purposeful or not.
A Vigilante is not an easy watch, and it has its fair share of issues, most of them to do with the final act. However it mostly handles the subject matter with care, and it’s directed very well. With all that being said, it may very well be worth watching even just for Olivia Wilde’s performance.