So I know many of you have heard the news of Robert Forster’s unfortunate passing. And like a lot of you, I am devastated by the news. One of my all time favorite actors, Forster was always the best at conveying quiet strength. He really didn’t have to say much, his eyes said it all.
Through his many great performances, from The Black Hole, Alligator, The Delta Force, Jackie Brown and so on, Robert always gave us that quiet strength, and sometimes, he gave us the look. The Look, as defined, is when in an action film a breaking point has been crossed, and a stern, vengeful, and emotionless expression dawns over the good guy’s face, indicating that righteous vengeance will commence. Sometimes the look will be shared with a confidant, or sometimes to themselves.
For example, William Devane & Tommy Lee Jones share the look with each other in Rolling Thunder, Chuck Norris gives the look in… a lot of his movies, but for the sake of having an example, let’s go with A Force of One. And Steven Seagal & Keith David share the look with each other in Marked for Death. But nobody gave it better than Robert Forster in Vigilante.
In what is my absolute favorite of his, Vigilante is a 1983 revenge action drama directed by William Lustig and starring Robert & Fred Williamson. Robert plays Eddie Marino, a factory worker whose life is forever altered when his family is brutally assaulted by gang members, leading to the maiming of his wife and the death of his son. When the corrupt court system lets the gangsters walk free, he takes it upon himself to bring them to justice.
I love this movie so much. It is one of my all time favorites of my favorite action subgenres: the revenge movie. And one of the reasons I love it so is due to Robert. His performance in this movie is amazing, remarkable. An absolute gem of a performance. Especially in the scene when he delivers… The Look.
Allow me to provide some context: After the corrupt judge sets the lead gang member free, Eddie becomes enraged and attacks him, leading to Eddie himself to be thrown in jail for 30 days, to add insult to injury. When he’s released, and after getting some words of encouragement from his jailhouse protector, played by Woody Strode, he leaves the jail looking for immediate vengeance.
Seeking out his friend Nick (Williamson), who he knows is the head of a vigilante squad, Eddie finds him on a handball court. And after walking through a few people’s games (not having a care in the world), he walks right up to Nick, gives him the look and says one simple thing: “I want ’em.” Nick looks back at his fellow squad members, then returns a look of agreement to Eddie.
Beautifully badass scene. My favorite scene in the movie. Purely epic in every way. The score. The camerawork. And the acting, especially from Robert (although Williamson is to be commended here as well). This scene proves why he was the genuine article to acting. A true master of his craft. And now he’s gone…
But I don’t want to focus on that. His death is tragic, as death usually is when it’s someone you love and admire, but his legacy remains intact, and we are all the better for having been alive during the same time Robert Forster was to witness it. So without further ado, may I present to you the scene of the most epic look:
And I just want to say to Mr. Forster: Thank you. Thank you for all the years of giving us entertainment and joy through your work. You were one in a million. Rest well, King of The Look.