Review by Big Rich.
This is one of those films I remember from my childhood. I never watched it but the VHS cover in the video store will stay with me forever. A man in a biker helmet with a flamethrower, with carnage in montage all around him. This memory is cemented deeper by family holidays. In St Ives there is a newsagents on Fore Street. That newsagents used to rent videos and on the walls they had numerous one sheets. One of those was The Exterminator, the others were Robocop and Big Trouble in Little China. Well my young mind was ablaze, terror, excitement and the need to see such a film. “The dude has a goddamn flamethrower” I was 8 or 9 and that was the shit!
The film however does not meet up to expectation, but you knew I was gonna say that. 22 years have passed since that little boy saw the poster, and I’m a little bit more harder to please. The film is the usual story of guy returns from vietnam, sees all the bad things going on in his neighborhood, then decides to even the score. The film kicks off with a bang, literally, as we see our protagonist and his soldier buddies getting blown up, kicked, shot and in glorious technicolor beheaded. After the confusing start we are thrown to – then – present day New York to see how our new friends are re-adjusting. I’ll take a side note hear to comment on how awesome the film looks when we see a side of New York that we rarely see in the movies. New York at work, the docks, the broken down, ripped apart and burnt remains of the cities housing projects and abandoned buildings. I’ve always loved the fact that New York wasn’t all that until the mid to late 80’s, how it was a hell hole of a town and it was a dirty and broken as it looks in the movies. With The Exterminator, for all it’s downfalls, it shows a true New York.
Anyway, I digress. The film is slow, so bloody slow. Not much happens until The Exterminators best friend gets badly beaten by local gang, the street ghouls. This is where we enter, what I lovingly call, jump cut city. The director hates to fill in gaps. So we go from one seen in a hospital where The Exterminator says nothing about payback, to a scene involving a gang member being caught and tortured for info. Now I can happily put two and two together but for the love of God why not have the dots joined here then needlessly show the whole life story of street wise copper Dalton who is tasked with bringing The Exterminator to justice. Now I mean we see everything about this cat Dalton. If you add it u he has more screen time than The Exterminator. We see what and where he eats, sleeps, who he sleeps with, we watch him on dates, we watch him at work. All the while we should be watching the titular characters story unfold. But thats it. This film is a mess of ideas, for those of you who watched Lost and know what I mean by writers not having an ending so just making it up as they go along you’ll know what I mean. Thats the overall feeling of the film. I’m not asking much, just bloody know what you want to do with a film, at least choose a point of view.
The Exterminator will always be a video nasty, will always be a grainy tease that people will remember for the trailer and never the film. Will always be a mess, not terrible, not great just a mix of too many ideas. If this was put together as a story or concept now then it would be laughed at because it’s a cliche. And that many films have been and gone and some have been better. The Exterminator’s lack of budget, lack of focused story and definite lack of charm is it’s downfall. One of these wouldn’t be so bad but all of them destroys it. Don’t go showing me story line when in the first five minutes you promised me guts and gore and shit blowing up. I’ll always love this film, not for the actual movie, but for the memory of seeing that awesome poster on a video store wall.
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