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Exterminator

BY ZACH CARTER

I saw the sequel to The Exterminator before I even knew that a first installment existed; I assumed one did, because the sequel is called Exterminator 2, but I had no definitive proof.  So after having my mind blown by Exterminator 2 I sought out the movie that started it all, and wasn't too disappointed in what I found really.  The Exterminator is a much more somber, dramatic affair than the sequel, or at least it's intended to be; there isn't a single breakdance scene in the entire movie (although one would have been much appreciated).  As far as pure entertainment goes, I'd give my vote to Exterminator 2, but this one holds it's own quite admirably among it's grindhouse brethren.

A short and reasonably well-done (i.e. explosion-filled) opening scene introduces us to John Eastman (Robert Ginty) and his friend Michael Jefferson (Steve James), two soldiers deep in the shit in the middle of Vietnam.  They're taken as prisoners of war and forced to watch as a fellow soldier is nearly beheaded with a machete before breaking free and gunning down their captors.  Michael and John, badly injured, narrowly escape the battlefield.

After that we're treated to an opening title sequence with a song that lyrically sums up the character of John Eastland for us so that we don't have to think too hard.

I've been a witness to the spilling of the blood
Seen the lifeless bodies, lying in the mud
I walked away alive with a wounded heart
But I had to heal it, I had to heal it, 'til I couldn't feel it anymore

That pretty much sums everything up.  A battle-scarred veteran returns home to face the sometimes even more dangerous streets of NYC and is eventually pushed too far.  There's nothing new to see here for viewers well-versed in the vigilante flicks of the 80's (except perhaps the most ingenious way to cook a hot dog using only a desk lamp and two forks ever put on film).  Aside from John Eastland, we spend the most time following the captivities of Detective James Dalton (Christopher George) as he charms the pants off a sexy lady doctor and solves the Exterminator case in his spare time.  Seriously he does almost no police work, he just happens into information by accident; he only  discovers the true identity of The Exterminator because John interrupts one of his after-hours booty calls at the hospital.  We spend almost no time getting to know John Eastland, we simply follow him from one act of revenge to the next (his decision is to actually become The Exterminator is never even mentioned, it simply happens).

So the story never really elevates beyond paper-thin, but the gritty violence abounds, so no worries.  In this movie we see first instance of The Exterminator's affinity for flamethrowers (although it's much too brief), we see a man slowly dropped into a meat grinder, and in one particularly disturbing scene we learn what a "chicken-hawk" is.  Not too bad.  But the main reason to appreciate The Exterminator is that it paved the way for the most excellent Exterminator 2.

P.S. The street gang in The Exterminator has the worst name I've ever heard; how are we supposed to take them seriously when everyone keeps calling them the Ghetto Ghouls?


THE-EXTERMINATOR


EXTERMINATOR 2