A great performance by none other that Art Carney (The Honeymooners of TV land) as a neighborhood grocer that is fed up with the tough gang Souls. He advises our sea man Vincent to stay uninvolved, but Carney in the end stands up to the Gang of slimey toughs.
This film should have been titled RAGE. Defiance is just to weak a description. Lots of manufactured confrontation. It seems we go from one violent confrontation to another. Jan Micheal-Vincent stars as the reluctant warrior, just staying in this ghetto neigborhood long enough to get involved with the gang violence.
Ready to ship out as he always wanted to, people are hurt by the gang or killed. While well meaning, the plot is actually a fantasy. Danny Aiello, neighborhood middle aged former gang member himself, tries to reform his aged gang members to help Tommy and fight the Souls. Wait for the final confrontation between the gang leader of the Souls, a pimp like character and Vincent. White hat and black hat.
This is worthy of watching, even with its unrealistic plot. In a minor way, things like this could and do happen. But a white pretty boy like Vincent coming into town to clean it up is ridiculous. A feel good movie in the end.
Jan Michael Vincent
Director: John Flynn
Cinematographer: Ric Waite
Composer: Dominic Frontiere
Costume Designer: Ellis Cohen
Editor: David Finfer
Executive Producer: Robert J. Wunsch
Producer: Jerry Bruckheimer
Producer: William S. Gilmore Jr.
Producer: Robert J. Wunsch
Production Designer: Bill Malley
Screenplay: Thomas Michael Donnelly
Set Decorator : Rick Gentz
Songs by: Gerard McMahon
Story by: Mark Tulin
Story by: Thomas Michael Donnelly
Associate Producer: Thomas Michael Donnelly
terrorized by a gang of ruthless ruffians. The townspeople let these
ruffians prey on them because they are either too weak or too cowardly to drive them out.
Meanwhile, the hoer is in the town out of some necessity. He prefers to
mind his own business and look the other way. He is "just passing
through" and doesn't plan to get entangled in the woes of others.
Someway or somehow, however, the townspeople's fight becomes his fight,
and he must stand up to the predators.
When you think of this classic western hero, movies like George
Stevens' "Shane" with Alan Ladd or John Sturges' "Bad Day at Black
Rock" with Spencer Tracy come to mind. Indeed, westerns classics or
otherwise are not being made in the numbers that they used to appear in
on the silver screen. Nevertheless, that doesn't mean the classic
western hero has vanished. He is alive, well and kicking ass in
John Flynn's "Defiance" with Jan-Michael Vincent. "Defiance" is one of
the few decent moviesâ"along with Michael Winner's "The Mechanic"â"that
Vincent made before he destroyed his life with alcohol, narcotics, and
various other forms of abuse.
The setting of "Defiance" is not the old West. Instead, this tale of
urban terror is set in the east side slums of contemporary New York
City. The hero Tom Gamble, played with good natured but stalwart gusto
by Vincent neither carries a six-gun nor rides a horse.
Gamble is a footloose mariner laid over in town following his six-month
suspension by his union for brawling. He is "just passing through" and
he is eagerly awaiting the next ship out of town. The first ship is
bound for South America, but he has to learn Spanish before he can get
hired onto it.
Gamble rents a cheap apartment and spends his time studying Spanish and
drinking beer. Before long he gang that roans the neighborhoodâ"they
call themselves 'The Souls'â"take an interest in the stranger. The Souls attack a young boy that Gamble has befriended, rob a bingo game, and murder a retired boxing champ. Along the way, they manage to beat up Tom Gamble, too. But Gamble gets back on his feet and goes after these thugs.
The screenplay by producer Thomas Michael Donnelly is predictable,
strictly a formula driven revenge actioneer. It appears as if Donnelly
culled memorable scenes from "The Magnificent Seven," "Death Wish,"
"Billy Jack," and "High Noon" to make up his script.
Imitative though it may be, "Defiance" is definitely a superior effort.
There are no car chases or shoot-outs. It is knives, fists, and
Louisville sluggers. The dialogue sounds realistic and the characters
are well-rounded by both Donnelly's script and a talented cast.
John Flynn, who directed "Defiance," has called the shots of several
minor masterpieces such as "The Sergeant" with Rod Steiger, "The
Outfit" with Robert Duvall, and "Rolling Thunder" with William Devane.
Flynn specializes in tough, realistic, little action epics that recall
the studio-bound James Cagney and Humphrey Bogart thrillers that Warner
Brothers ground out in the 1930s and 1940s. Flynn crafts his movies
with both economy and imagination. "Defiance" qualified as Flynn's best
film when he came out in 1980 and a sleeper, too. Flynn has a knack for
creating atmospheric situations and staging exciting rough & tumble
fights that put to good use in "Defiance." He builds the action to a
pressure cooker climax that explodes in a rousing finale. There isn't a
slack moment in this fast-paced melodrama that has it share of humorous
Jan Michael Vincent delivers his finest, most mature performance.
Although he clenches his jaws and knuckles his fists, he never plays
Tom Gamble as a muscle-bound moron. As Gamble, he is a modest, ordinary hombre who stand up for what he believes in and rejects any phony
claims to being a hero.
Art Carney is featured in a small role as a Jewish storekeeper who
rebels against The Souls and gets severely beaten for his defiance.
Rudy Ramos nearly steals the movie as the kingpin villain who heads up
Altogether, "Defiance" is a little movie. There is nothing pretentious
about it. Moreover, it is not profane, lewd, or gratuitous. The ending
is happy, and the theme of the community that rejuvenates itself is
inspiring without being dripping with too much sentiment.
JMV plays our hero, Tommy- a seaman stranded in New York's lower east side after a scrape with a superior on his ship. Pretty soon, he incurs the wrath of the local gang- The Souls- who keep the neighbourhood gripped in a constant state of fear. Tommy boy is having none of that banter though, and decides to fight them in the streets.
The thing I like about "Defiance" is the way it bucks the trend of the traditional "lone vigilante beats insurmountable odds" plot gambit which was fashionable around the time (eg the "Death Wish" series). Tommy begins the movie as a loner, but he can't defeat the Souls single-handed. He can however, inspire the threatened community around him into action.
Underrated helmsman John Flynn (who also did another Bear favourite, "Rolling Thunder") keeps it simple, and opts for a refreshing realism for the fight scenes- which include an ace standoff between a steel-bar swinging JMV and four Souls on a basketball court.
As well as Vincent's amiable and down-to-earth lead performance, theres sterling support from Danny Aiello (who brings presence and warmth to what could've been a beige, bland sidekick role) and Art Carney as an aging boxer who befriends Tommy.