• Defiance

    Released by: MGM Limited Edition Collection
    Released on: 4/20/2011
    Director: John Flynn
    Cast: Jan Michael Vincent, Danny Aiello, Theresa Saldana, Art Carney
    Year: 1980
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    The Movie:

    John Flynn’s 1980 film Defiance stars Jan Michael Vincent as a boat worker named Tommy Gamble who finds himself out of a job when his ship docks in New York City. While waiting for new work he decides to live temporarily in an apartment that a friend of a coworker is able to get for him – it’s not fancy, and it’s in a tough neighborhood, but the rent is cheap and it’ll only be until a new job comes along. He moves in and quickly finds that the area is a bit louder than he’d like but soon makes friends with the cute Jewish lady who lives upstairs from him, Marsha (Theresa Saldana). While they hit it off and pal around with a little Puerto Rican orphan kid, a gang called The Souls, lead by a guy who looks like a cross between Prince and Zorro named Angel (Rudy Ramos), are tearing up the neighborhood and making things difficult for local business owners like Abe (Art Carney).

    While Tommy tries to more or less keep to himself and not get involved in the neighborhood’s problems – after all, he’s only passing through, or so he keeps telling everyone – before you know it some local do-gooders lead by Carmine (Danny Aiello) are up in arms and ready to do what the cops will not: clean up the streets and get those punks out of their neighborhood so that good people can live there free of harm!

    While John Flynn will always be remembered for Rolling Thunder, a film far superior to this one on pretty much every level, Defiance is a fun escapist bit of skuzzy action moviemaking. Shot primarily on the Lower East Side of Manhattan before it was full of yuppies and condos, the movie has a nice time capsule quality to it and all the legitimate inner city atmosphere you could hope for. It doesn’t have the ambience of something like Taxi Driver, it definitely gives you a feel for the grit and the grime that once was.

    As far as the performances go, Jan Micheal Vincent is fine here. He’s never been the most charismatic guy and that’s true of his work here but in this case, since his character is trying to stay detached from what’s happening in the neighborhood, it actually works in the movie’s favor. His chemistry with Theresa Saldana is basically non-existent but outside of that romantic subplot, he’s not a bad leading man this time around. Danny Aiello is fun in his supporting role, while Art Carney, who is billed near the top of the credits, is really only in the movie for a couple of minutes. Rudy Ramos makes for a great bad guy, he and his gang members decked out in wardrobe that would make The Warriors blush and roaming the streets causing whatever trouble they can. He might be a bit too goofy looking to be intimidating by modern standards but Ramos plays the part completely straight without taking it over the top and does succeed in generation a few moments of genuine menace.

    If the film is predictable and almost completely by the numbers, well, that’s part of its charm, right?


    MGM’s DVD-R looks okay in this 1.85.1 anamorphic widescreen transfer though some odd wiggly lines on the right side of the frame make you wonder if this wasn’t taken from a tape source. Regardless, the picture quality isn’t bad. There are some minor compression artifacts in few spots and if you watch for it you’ll notice a speck here and there but colors and skin tones look alright. Detail is nothing to write home about, but seeing the film in decent condition in its proper aspect ratio is always a good thing. The movie certainly could have looked better than it does here, but so too could it have looked quite a bit worse.

    The only audio option on the DVD is an English language Dolby Digital Mono mix, no alternate language options or subtitles are provided. The mix here is about what you’d expect – it’s clean sounding and dialogue is easy enough to understand, but it’s not particularly deep or involving. It gets the job done without any major problems, but it’s nothing to write home about.

    Extras? Aside from a static menu and chapter selection, MGM has included the film’s trailer.

    The Final Word:

    It may not be on par with films like Death Wish or Cobra, what with its play-it-safe PG rating, but Defiance still holds up well as a skuzzy New York City based actioner. It’s got a few fun performances in it, some great location footage and a serviceable, if predictable story to tell. MGM’s DVD-R won’t blow your mind, but it’s as good as it has looked on home video so far, and fans will probably want to snag it while they can.

    Comments 4 Comments
    1. Mark Tolch's Avatar
      Mark Tolch -
      Yikes...that looks for sure to be a video master....still, better quality than the DVD-R of the VHS i have. Though that has sufficed just fine for a long time.
    1. Ian Jane's Avatar
      Ian Jane -
      It's the best presentation of the movie I've seen, but yeah, MGM half assed this one.
    1. Mark Tolch's Avatar
      Mark Tolch -
      Well, at least it's out there....sigh.
    1. Nolando's Avatar
      Nolando -
      That 5th pic - "OMGQUICK - TO THE PABLO CRUISE SHOW!!!"