Olivia Wilde is a domestic abuse survivor who devises an off-the-grid method of helping other women escape their tormentors in the taut indie “A Vigilante.”
First time feature director Sarah Daggar-Nickson blends all-too-believable survivor stories with a somewhat standard thriller plot, while Wilde gives an all-out performance as Sadie, who alternates between cool-headed vengeance and shaking, sobbing bouts of PTSD-induced panic attacks.
The difference between this and, say, the 2002 J.Lo abused-wife drama “Enough,” is that Daggar-Nickson refuses to indulge the viewer’s expectation of drawn-out bouts of violence. They’re here, but rare, and her camera is more interested in the moments in between — deep breathing, wound dressing — and the devastating aftermath, including women trying to figure out where to go and what to do after breaking off a bad live-in relationship.
Stressful but more predictable is the moment Sadie’s husband (Morgan Spector, whose character isn’t even granted a name in the credits) appears for an inevitable showdown.
“Graveyards are full of people who didn’t make it out,” says one member of Sadie’s group. “It’s a massacre.”
By titling her film “A Vigilante” rather than the more traditional “The,” Daggar-Nickson seems to imply Sadie’s a cinema-heightened version of a woman struggling to fight back against domestic abuse, but she’s far from the only one.
The film manages to be both hopeful and devastating — and recommended viewing for anyone who subscribes to the facile notion that abused women should “just leave.”