Denzel Washington is back taking names in jaw-droppingly violent thriller The Equalizer (in cinemas September 26). The big screen reboot of the ’80s TV show features death by corkscrew while retribution is delivered DIY-style with booby-traps, a drill and a sledgehammer. Take a look back at some of the most fearsome vigilantes in a rogues gallery of have-a-go hero classics.
Charles Bronson – Death Wish (1974) Michael Winner directs one of the first modern vigilante thrillers. Bronson’s Kersey prowls the streets of New York at night after his wife is brutally murdered and daughter hospitalised. Armed with a Colt revolver (one of his victims is Denzel Washington in a first screen role as a street thug) he indulges in “the old American social custom of self defence”.
Liam Neeson – Taken (2008) Ramming nails through kneecaps, twisting spinal chords and delivering retribution via electrocution, Neeson’s Bryan Mills has “a particular set of skills”. The ex-CIA agent goes postal when his daughter is kidnapped by people traffickers in Paris. Don’t worry, he does ‘find’ them…Neeson was trained by the SAS in hand to hand combat. Taken 3 is in cinemas January 8.
Michael Douglas – Falling Down (1993) Billed as “the adventure of an ordinary man at war with the everyday world” Joel ‘Batman Forever’ Schumacher’s film follows violent sociopath William ‘D-FENS’ Foster. Armed with a rocket launcher and an Uzi he rages against street gangs but also gets a bee in his bonnet over traffic jams and unhelpful shopkeepers. As you do.
Paddy Considine – Dead Man’s Shoes (2004) Before he hit pay dirt on the small screen in The Suspicions of Mr Whicher, Considine made his name in the early films of Shane Meadows. His ex-soldier returns to his hometown an angel of vengeance armed with an axe ready to grind the bullies who brutalized his mentally ill brother. In one shocking scene he drugs his prey and toys with them mercilessly.
Uma Thurman – Kill Bill (2003) Quentin Tarantino’s two-part killing spree sees Thurman’s vengeful ‘Bride’ on a mission to kill Bill (David Carradine) She’s buried alive but punches her way to freedom before show downs with Michael Madsen, Daryl Hannah and a memorable carve up where she takes on an army of sword-wielding assassins before a stunning finale scalping Lucy Liu with a Samurai blade.
Gran Torino – Clint Eastwood (2008) The Dirty Harry star directed himself as Korean war veteran Kowalski. The grumpy old man becomes a mentor to his young neighbour Thao after he tries to steal his prized 1972 Ford Gran Torino. Facing off against gangs terrorising his neighbourhood Kowalski snarls, “You come across somebody once in a while you shouldn’t have fucked with!” Still got it.
Pam Grier – Coffy (1973) Grier would find fame again decades later in Tarantino’s Jackie Brown. But back in the ‘70s she was a blaxploitation star who kicked ass big style as, “The baddest one-chick hit-squad that ever hit town!” in Jack Hill’s thriller. Seeking justice for her drug addict sister she targets dealers and pimps with a well aimed bullet.
Christian Bale – Batman Begins (2005) Christopher Nolan’s moody reimagining of the caped crusader via the Dark Knight graphic novels of Frank Miller began here. Wayne trains to become a walking martial arts weapon and returns to Gotham to quell the threat of the Scarecrow and the League of Shadows. The ‘Tumbler’ Batmobile comes in handy.
Aaron Taylor-Johnson – Kick Ass (2010) Matthew Vaughn’s adaptation of Scot Mark Millar’s graphic novel made a star of Johnson. He played a high school geek turned internet sensation when his DIY hero alter ego takes to the streets in a wetsuit and gardening gloves to fight crime. He’s rubbish at first but soon gets the hang of it though Chloe Grace Moretz’ Hit Girl could have him for breakfast.