Movie Talk with Jake Salinas

REVIEW: “A VIGILANTE” Features Olivia Wilde’s Best Performance to Date (SXSW 2018)


Sarah Daggar Nickson‘s A Vigilante is a pretty great movie. For the first two acts. The first two acts of this film is a quiet, powerful, and even emotional thriller on abusers, and the quest of one woman to rid the world of them. This is a great idea for a movie, and for the most part is. But thanks to an uninspired and cliche third act, A Vigilante can’t quite make it to being a great movie. But it’s still a really, really good movie, and Olivia Wilde as the film’s protagonist is absolutely incredible in the picture. Third act aside, A Vigilante is a very powerful film, and one that takes on greater importance due to the #MeToo and TimesUp movement. I highly recommend checking this one out.

Olivia Wilde plays a woman named Sadie, a woman who was a victim of abuse thanks to an abusive husband. After she left that marriage tragically, she decides to devote the rest of her life by helping women in abusive relationships get out of them by threatening and/or severally beating the abusers in question. On top of this, she’s continuing to hunt down the man who started all of this for her, her husband.

Nickson writes the screenplay to this film as well, and what she delivers is a powerful send-up to women who’ve been victims of abuse, as well as giving those victims a hero to look into with Wilde’s character. It’s such a great concept for a film (there are shades of Stieg Larrson‘s Dragon Tattoo trilogy with this film), and there’s a kind of passion and care that’s put into this film that wouldn’t be the same with any other director and actor at the front. Wilde, who also produces the film, is an outspoken women’s rights activist off-screen, and that passion that she has for that cause is translated so beautifully into this film and this performance. I had always felt that Wilde was a very talented actress but she had yet to find a project that was a true testament to her talent, and A Vigilante is in fact this film. She flawlessly transitions from being a complete badass in one scene to being a character that’s deeply vulnerable and scarred, but determined to get justice. It’s a great performance, and the strongest aspect of this film.

And it’s not just Wilde’s performance that make this film as powerful as it is, and it’s not the direction by Ms. Nickson. What really brings the film home is a series of flashbacks in the film where Sadie is in a therapy group session with women who are survivors of domestic abuse. And all the women in the group are actual survivors of domestic abuse, and the stories that they’re telling are in fact their real stories. And with that knowledge, it’s damn near impossible to watch this film with a dry eye. It’s by no means an easy film to sit through, but it’s an important one. In this era of MeToo/TimesUp, where powerful men who’ve abused and harassed women for years aren’t getting a pass anymore and are facing major consequences for those actions, this is an essential film for this era.

I just wish that the film had a stronger third act. I can’t really talk about the third act without spoiling the ending, but it feels inconsistent with the rest of the film, and a little unrealistic for the tone that the filmmakers were going with. I like how it ends, but I wish there had been a different tone and approach to that third act.

A Vigilante is one of my favorite films so far at this year’s festival, and even a weak third act can’t take that away. This is a deeply powerful and personal film for both Ms. Nickson and Ms. Wilde, and I personally feel that they did a superb job in accomplishing what they needed to with this film. I hope that if you’re at the festival this year, you go check this one out at the other screenings around town for this film. As I said a few paragraphs above, this is not an easy film to sit through (the double feature of this and Galveston today made for a not very uplifting Saturday), but it’s an essential film to watch.


Final Rating: