The Exterminator is your typical 80’s retribution film.
Best buddies John Eastland and Michael Jefferson return from a gruelling time in Vietnam to find that New York is a corrupt and crime-ridden place to live.
Working at a wholesalers the guys try to make ends meet and when some punks turn up to steal beer the ex-army duo use their fists to teach them a lesson.
Sadly though, the punks are part of the notorious Ghetto Gouls gang and when Michael is least expecting it, they take revenge on him for his intervention, paralysing him from the neck down and leaving his family devastated.
It’s the final straw for John who is suffering from post traumatic stress disorder and he takes to the street with a flamethrower and magnum to hunt the gang members.
But he doesn’t stop there. John continues to travel the city seeking out bad guys in an effort to clean up the streets using brutal force. Unfortunately though, it’s not long before the police and the CIA look to end his vigilante campaign – don’t they always?
The Exterminator is typical of films of this period. It highlights the hopelessness that was felt by many in the US after the Vietnam conflict. After a huge loss of life, many veterans returned to find the country in a poor state of affairs, and with many ex-soldiers suffering from mental and physical trauma there was much frustration and resentment.
But films of this kind often only used these real societal issues as an excuse for sensational action movies, filmed with gore, guns and sex. John swaggers around the city as he cleans it up, waving his magnum around in a very Dirty Harry/Death Wish kind of way. And as the film takes off ift becomes clear that the Exterminator isn’t about Vietnam, or recovering from it. It’s about wearing a cool outfit and killing street punks with a big gun and flame thrower whilst riding a motorbike.
There isn’t much of a story, and lacking a narrative, events seem to follow each other randomly and without really making sense. The scenes are loosely tacked together and the characters are straight from the 70’s/80’s factory line. You’ll be sure that you’ve seen most of them before, maybe you’ve even seen the film before. Or maybe you’ve just seen one of the many other films of the period that are exactly like it.
The Exterminator has been lovingly restored in HD. I say lovingly because it seems pretty obvious that to have any feelings for the film you’d probably have seen it in your youth and have a somewhat distorted perception of its greatness.
To the first time viewer there are entertaining moments but a majority of your time will be spent deriding it. “Look at the way that guys head fell off!”, “Wow, his magnum just totally blew up that car!” etc.
If you like 80’s retro movies, then The Exterminator is a classic example. However, if you’ve grown more accustomed to fine acting and an original storyline, you will be less than impressed.