A Vigilante is a Rarity

Never mind the generic title, Olivia Wilde’s A Vigilante is a rarity in cinema today. Domestic abuse is practically invisible on film, even in the much-ballyhooed, supposedly daring world of indie cinema. Wilde and director Sarah Daggar explore the epidemic on a grand yet intimate scale atypical of either big Hollywood or little indies. As Sadie, Wilde is a woman running from her past and one horrific incident involving her abusive ex-husband and their son. Now she’s living off the grid, barely making face time with other people and donning wigs to duck in and out of obscurity. She’s committed herself to a mission: helping people in the throes of domestic violence, from trapped housewives to literally trapped children, locked away by their mother in a closet. She’s a vigilante, prowling the country for perpetrators and offering solace to the bruised and beaten. Sometimes she kills, sometimes she doesn’t, but she almost always succeeds. Following Wilde cross-country in pursuit of justice is fascinating and emotionally draining in the rightest of ways, but Daggar loses her footing when it’s apparently time for Sadie’s past to catch up to her. At that point A Vigilante quickly devolves into a hero/villain act that is predictable, miscast, and infinitely less intriguing than watching her interact with our corrupted world at large. Simple, matter-of-fact dialogue gives way to overstated murmurs of vengeance. Regardless, for nearly two-thirds of a film, A Vigilante is an empathetic, much-needed portrait of a violent problem too often pushed to the margins of political and societal discourse. Wilde proves herself a capable performer, physically and otherwise, and her director is a filmmaker to watch.

Grade: B-

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