"In 'The Exterminator' he made the streets of New York safe. All has been quiet...until now!" That tagline coupled with the magnificent artwork makes me think of somebody going to the trouble of awaking a sleeping giant, except this giant is armed with a flamethrower and now everything is on fire. THIS is the style of VHS box art I enjoy the most. Action scenes with electric colors and busy backgrounds. This artwork makes you want to see the movie. Let's roll to the check out, gang!
The film was produced by Golan-Globus and distributed by the Cannon Group, so if those names are attached to it, you have yourself a winning combination in the b-movie action genre. It stars the late Robert Ginty as "John Eastland" aka The Exterminator. Ginty has been seen in such other notable films as Warrior of the Lost World and The Retaliator. His character here mumbles his way through a lot of the dialogue, wears the same clothes everyday, appears to be homeless and jobless, but yet has fallen into a relationship with a dancer named Caroline, played by Deborah Geffner. Ms. Geffner has been seen in such films as Infestation, where I'm sure her real life dance skills played into the plot nicely. For some reason, the character of Caroline doesn't seem to mind that Eastland has no home and no job, which just screams of desperation. Oh yeah, her character works as a dancer in a bar (where the sign inside reads "Free Beer" every night), but she is NOT A STRIPPER! There may be a pole there, and she may use it, but she has class and only takes her clothes off for Eastland. She has aspirations of making it to Broadway, and if you placed a bet that she will never make it there, count yourself lucky. Eastland also has a best friend named "BeGee" as played by Frankie Faison. Faison has appeared in Maximum Overdrive and Freejack, and maybe some show called The Wire but we don't talk about The Wire around here due to it being a much lesser accomplishment. BeGee drives a garbage truck for a living, and is kind enough to give Eastland a job. Finally, the main villain goes by the name of "X" and is played by Mario Van Peebles in a performance that steals the show.
The plot goes like this: X's gang rob the "Five Star Liquor Store", a mom and pop shop where the gang kills mom and pop in cold-blooded fashion. The Exterminator arrives on the scene, thanks to his police scanner, and solves things with fire. A couple of the miscreants get away, but the charred remains of two of them serve as a reminder to scum across the city that this is Exterminator territory. X and his gang are something of a cross between the thugs in The Road Warrior and the thugs in The Warriors. They meet underground, wear nouveau derelicte fashions and have secret meetings lit by torchlight. In order to rule the city, they want to buy drugs. Seems logical enough, so all they need is money. They attempt to knock off an armored car, but BeGee and his garbage truck happen upon the scene and break it up. BeGee gives Eastland a job and lets him use his truck. So one night the gang sees the same garbage truck and assume that it's the guy who broke up their robbery. They end up following Eastland around town while he is romancing his girlfriend, Caroline. She is attacked by the gang, and put in a wheelchair, her dreams of making it to Broadway dashed. This, of course, puts a strain in her relationship with Eastland, who decides that the best way to deal with relationship struggles is to GO OUT AND SET THUGS ON FIRE! One of the thugs killed was X's brother, Spider. If momma is going to name you X and Spider, you may as well join a gang at the age of two because that is your path in life. X now decides to make this personal, so Caroline is killed in her apartment. You can imagine how this makes Eastland feel. I'll give you one guess: it makes him......HOT under the collar! *ahem* Sorry about that. Actually, there is no collar, just the same black turtleneck the entire movie.
Meanwhile, BeGee is also killed while he and Eastland are out in their garbage truck exacting revenge. So not only does he lose his girlfriend, but he also loses his best friend. So he's homeless, jobless, friendless and loveless; and he walks around the city with propane tanks strapped to his back and melts people. This guy is the HERO, people! Eventually, it all leads to the big showdown between The Exterminator and X in an abandoned warehouse. I believe big cities keep these abandoned warehouses around so vigilantes and their enemies can confine their destruction to a twenty five thousand square foot radius. It makes clean up easier.
Here is what I liked: Mario Van Peebles. An insane performance here. Over-the-top turned up to eleven is how I would describe it. You have to have a villain like this in a movie like this or it could just fall flat. I also enjoyed the concept of the Exterminator just taking out all of his personal frustrations and channeling them into a fireball thrown into the face of villainy. I mean, that poor dude hiding in the tree sees him, manages to get out an "oh shit" before being barbecued, tree and all. The plot was very simple here: flame-throwing vigilante seeks criminal action, finds it, torches it. It took a case of mistaken identity to provide a couple of twists, but the revenge plot is still prevalent here.
What I didn't like: Robert Ginty's performance can best be described as unintelligible. I literally could not make out some of the things he was saying. I know that suspension of disbelief is important for films like this, but this character should probably have been made into more of a sociopath, rather than give him a girl and a friend. Here I am watching a movie about a guy who uses a flamethrower to kill people and I suggest he should be more sociopathic.
Overall, I enjoyed the movie. We'll give it ***.