The Gladiator (1986)

TV Movie   |  Not Rated   |    |  Action, Drama, Thriller

The Gladiator (1986) Poster

A road warrior vigilante avenges his brother's death at the hands of a crazy motorist by using his souped-up pickup to apprehend drunken drivers and others who abuse their driving privileges.


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24 July 2017 | Ben-Hibburd
| The Gladiator Review.
The Gladiator is the third film i've seen from New York auteur Abel Ferrara. Although this film happens to be set in California it retains all the same visual stylistic choices from his New York films. The Gladiator is yet another film that i find Incredibly divisive, and has done little too sway my opinion of him from either being a hack or a genius.

The film stars Ken Wahl as Rick Benton, a revenge fuelled vigilante. After the death of his brother to a crazed motorist that is in the midst of a murderous rampage. Benton takes to patrolling the roads of San Francisco in his modified pick up truck, using the call sign Gladiator. He does so to ensure the roads are kept safe from inept drivers, whilst simultaneously hunting for his brothers killer.

The Gladiator is essentially Death Wish on wheels, and nothing much else. The script is your typical vigilante drama, as the stoic Benton goes through every cliché known to man. That is until his inevitable showdown with his brothers killer. Usually this would bother me in most films of this ilk though Iv'e come to accept this macho style of film-making from Ferrara. Whilst the film is thin on characterisation, it's never regarded as the focus of the film.

There's something though about Ferrara's film-making that i can't quite put my finger on. It's no secret that his films don't look very good, and most of them have a televisual feel to them alongside, at times unintelligible audio. However they completely suck me into his world. All of his films have this underlying, stoic, brooding atmosphere, that i find intoxicating. Ferrara is able to bring his films to life in ways that few directors can. His night-shots, despite the poor, indie quality of the cameras, look beautiful, much like the work of Michael Mann or Katheryn Bigelow.

Nearly all his films are divisive and rough around the edges. This film is more straight forward, then most of his others films such-as: Bad Lieutenant, The Driller Killer etc. Whilst i respect and even at times admire his low budget, guerrilla style of film-making, it's not enough to save this film from it's poor, under-cooked screenplay, and bland characters.

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Release Date:

3 February 1986



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