Film Review: Vigilante Diaries

Writing and direction below the level of a standard videogame make for an almost unwatchable action thriller.
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There are movies that on paper seem so obviously bad, it must have been hard to find anyone to finance them. One assumes that was the case with this action thriller originally conceptualized by Kevin Smith pal Jason Mewes, actor Paul Sloan and director Christian Sesma back in 2013 as a web series for the now-defunct pay-as-you-go website Chill.

Maybe anyone who watched those earlier episodes will have some idea what’s going on in Vigilante Diaries, as the film begins with a report that a vigilante—known cleverly as “The Vigilante” and played by Sloan—who up until then has been taking down gangland crime and druglords, has vanished. More parties seem interested in what happened to this “Vigilante” than anyone who will ever likely see this movie.

One of those parties is Mewes as Michael Hanover, the host of a “Vice”-like video show who once went on a mission with “The Vigilante,” whose disappearance has caused turmoil between the Mafia, the Mexican cartels and a couple of rogue Special Forces commandos.

Described (quite accurately) in its promotional materials as an “explosive throwback packed with badass swagger, hardcore firepower and bone-crunching action,” Vigilante Diaries is a movie for those who feel that the Call of Duty videogames are the height of what can be done in cinema, although the writing and acting in Vigilante Diaries are barely up to snuff with the worst of those games.

As a director, Sesma couldn’t wear his influences more on his sleeve if he tried, even going as far as casting Quentin Tarantino regular Michael Madsen (who opens the movie with a monologue and tries to bring some gravitas to an otherwise worthless role). The movie’s even told in chapters, possibly knowing its target audience of videogame enthusiasts won’t have a particularly long attention span anyway.

While it might not be too surprising to see the likes of Madsen here—he’s an actor known to take any role he can get in between Tarantino films—Michael Jai White offers the best onscreen presence and seems better than the material he’s given.

Maybe in a world where the R-rated Deadpool is one of the year’s biggest blockbusters, there’s room for Vigilante Diaries, but it lacks any cleverness in its humor and the entire film is terribly written. Honestly, what else would you expect from a movie that acts as a vehicle for Mewes while relying on him as its primary draw? Every other word out of the actor’s mouth is an expletive or some sort of sexist crack directed towards one woman or another.

Every woman in the film seems to be there mainly as eye candy, with most written as poorly as they’re treated by the men around them. There’s even a character named “Gay Barry” who tries to deflect the homophobic underpinnings of such a character by making disparaging racist comments towards everyone else he encounters

For the most part, there’s a lot of gunfights and explosions amidst the minimal plot, and if nothing else, the movie gets points for casting the likes of White and UFC fighter “Rampage” Jackson, who are able to do most of their own fight scenes. But casting a third-generation, fifth-string WWE wrestler like “Chavo” Guerrero is little too obvious.

Not that it matters, because Vigilante Diaries is garbage, a B-grade action movie filled with racist, homophobic and sexist humor, knowing its audience is likely to eat it up. It’s a movie targeted directly at the Call of Duty generation rather than anyone looking for a movie resembling something that deserves to be shown in theatres.

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