Fighting Back (1982 film)

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Fighting Back
Fighting Back Poster.jpg
Fighting Back Poster
Directed by Lewis Teague
Produced by Perm Presentations
Screenplay by Thomas Hedley Jr.
David Zelag Goodman
Music by Piero Piccioni
Cinematography Franco Di Giacomo
Edited by Nicholas C. Smith
Distributed by Paramount Pictures
Release date
  • May 21, 1982 (1982-05-21)
Running time
98 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Box office $3,355,948

Fighting Back (UK title: Death Vengeance)[1] is a 1982 action crimedrama film written by Thomas Hedley Jr & David Zelag Goodman and directed by Lewis Teague.[2] The film stars Tom Skerritt,[3] Patti LuPone,[4] Michael Sarrazin,[5][6] Yaphet Kotto,[7][8] David Rasche,[9] Lewis Van Bergen,[10] Earle Hyman,[11][12] and Ted Ross.[13]


The film opens with Philadelphia TV reporters viewing and broadcasting a news story about violence in society since JFK Assassination in 1963. With the increase in crime, Philadelphia is becoming unsafe. Proud Italian-American John D'Angelo (Tom Skerritt) runs a deli in town. While driving with his wife, Lisa (Patti LuPone), D'Angelo comes across a pimp known as Eldorado (Pete Richardson) brutalizing one of his prostitutes. John's wife confronts the pimp and the pimp chases the D'Angelos, ramming his car into the back of the D'Angelos' vehicle, injuring Lisa and killing their unborn baby. John's mother Vera (Gina DeAngles) is assaulted in the neighborhood.

John decides to make a stand, organizing a neighborhood patrol composed of regular citizens who are also fed up with the crime in their neighborhood. They call themselves The People's Neighborhood Patrol, or “PNP” for short. The PNP has their own uniforms consisting of blue hats and vests that have a PNP logo on them, a headquarters to take phone calls, along with vehicles all containing their PNP logo and is led by John and his best friend Vince Morelli (Michael Sarrazin), a police officer. After D'Angelo's house is burglarized and their dog is killed, the film cuts to the reporters' studio footage of Newark, New Jersey ten years after the 1967 Newark riots, self-defense classes in Beverly Hills, various target practice sessions and the Guardian Angels on patrol in New York City. With Vince's help, the police allow the PNP to patrol the neighborhood. However, the PNP seem to operate with no regard for the law and do as they please. To make their first stand and to introduce themselves to the neighborhood, the group goes to a dirty bar in town known for being a hot spot for criminals, which Eldorado and his men are known patrons of. John casually walks into the bar with the rest of the PNP behind him. John confronts the bartender (Allan Graf), trying to get answers as to who is responsible for mugging his mother. Things turn violent when the bartender laughs in John’s face, triggering an all-out brawl, but the PNP come out on top.

John and the PNP start gaining media attention, and the neighborhood starts to rally behind the PNP. The group starts taking out pimps, drug dealers, muggers, and thieves. The PNP operates above the law. John D’Angelo does what he wants, and his actions are seen as racial discrimination by a small portion of the African-American community. John D’Angelo meets with Ivanhoe Washington (Yaphet Kotto), a black leader of a similar vigilante movement. Ivanhoe presents John with the two men who mugged his mother, one of whom is white while the other is black. John beats up the black man, proving Ivanhoe’s point that John is guilty of discrimination.

With widespread media attention, John decides to run for councilman in the upcoming election. Just when things are looking good for the city, tragedy strikes when Vince is gunned down and killed at the hands of Eldorado and his men. In retaliation, John organizes a large scale attack on the park where Vince was killed. All members of the PNP head to the park, where they demand that everyone in the park clear out. When their demands are ignored, the PNP takes action, and starts clearing out the park by way of brute force. A large brawl soon erupts, and police arrive on the scene not long after. John spots Eldorado and chases after him; during the chase John is tackled and arrested by police. Eldorado manages to get away.

While meeting with Police Commissioner (Ted Ross), John is informed where Eldorado is, the Commissioner sardonically explaining that John can understand that at the moment the police are "too busy" to arrest Eldorado at the moment (in effect, inviting John to assassinate Eldorado.) When John explains he doesn't know how to thank him, the Commissioner explains that "oh yes, he does," and that his job is based on working with people, paying and collecting favors, and that John is going to owe him some big ones when he's elected.

Essentially having permission from the Commissioner to take out Eldorado, John waits patiently on the roof above Eldorado's vehicle. When Eldorado and his men enter the car, John drops a grenade though the vehicle's roof. The grenade explodes, killing everyone inside the car.

John ends up winning the election, and a large celebration with family and friends takes place inside his deli. The PNP have cleaned up the neighborhood, and crime is no more. The final scene shows children playing in the very same park that was once occupied by criminals.



Fighting Back was mostly filmed in and around the Kensington section of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.[14]


Opening the weekend of May 23, 1982, Fighting Back brought in $1,624,381. The film received $3,355,948 in gross sales.[15]

Critical response[edit]

Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes gives Fighting Back a score of 20% based on reviews from 5 critics and a rating average of 4.5 out of 10.[16]

Richard F. Shepard of The New York Times wrote in his review: "This Dino De Laurentiis production is, puzzlingly, more realistic in its parts than in its whole, which tries to attack the entire problem of crime and neighborhood self-protection, of selfless community service and of temptations to use service as a stepping stone. It approaches and touches the matters of racism, political opportunism, civil rights, vigilante tactics and the process of law, but it does not come to extreme conclusions about them. And so we are left with a story, but fortunately the story is interestingly spun. Fighting Back is set in an Italian neighborhood of Philadelphia, where a storekeeper, played by Tom Skerritt, is outraged by an incident on the streets that results in his pregnant wife losing the baby and by a robbery in which his mother's ring finger is cut off. He organizes the local people into a security patrol. The patrol does wipe out crime but operates beyond the law, with our hero carrying on more of a personal vendetta, western-style, than a campaign to establish law and order."[17]

Critic Gary Arnold of The Washington Post wrote in his review: "Fighting Back is a lurid glorification of urban vigilantism remotely inspired by the career of Anthony Imperiale, the charismatic community leader of riled and fearful Italian-American residents in Newark in the late '60s. Imperiale himself is recalled in newsreel clips in the course of the movie, which opens for no justifiable reason with a medley of traumatic documentary footage, from the assassination of President Kennedy through the assassination attempts on President Reagan and Pope John Paul II. [...] All of them are impressively overqualified for the minimal, motley quality of illusion that Fighting Back is content to confuse with effective contemporary melodrama."[18]


Fighting Back was released in theatres on May 21, 1982. The film was released on VHS in the United Kingdom.[19] Fighting Back was released on DVD.[20]


  1. ^ Talbot 2006, p. 37.
  2. ^ "Fighting Back". AFI Catalog of Feature Films. American Film Institute. Retrieved January 7, 2017. 
  3. ^ "Tom Skerritt". Boca Raton, Florida:, LLC. Retrieved January 7, 2017. 
  4. ^ "Patti luPone". NNDB. Mountain View, California: Soylent Communications. Retrieved January 7, 2017. 
  5. ^ "Michael Sarrazin". Boca Raton, Florida:, LLC. Retrieved January 7, 2017. 
  6. ^ "Michael Sarrazin". NNDB. Mountain View, California: Soylent Communications. Retrieved January 7, 2017. 
  7. ^ "Yaphet Kotto". Film Reference Library. Toronto: TIFF Bell Lightbox. Retrieved January 7, 2017. 
  8. ^ "Yaphet Kotto". NNDB. Mountain View, California: Soylent Communications. Retrieved January 7, 2017. 
  9. ^ "David Rasche". NNDB. Mountain View, California: Soylent Communications. Retrieved January 7, 2017. 
  10. ^ "Lewis Van Bergen". Boca Raton, Florida:, LLC. Retrieved January 7, 2017. 
  11. ^ "Earle Hyman". Boca Raton, Florida:, LLC. Retrieved January 7, 2017. 
  12. ^ "Earle Hyman". Film Reference Library. Toronto: TIFF Bell Lightbox. Retrieved January 7, 2017. 
  13. ^ "Ted Ross". NNDB. Mountain View, California: Soylent Communications. Retrieved January 7, 2017. 
  14. ^ Frankford Gazette Staff (July 5, 2009). "1981 Movie "Fighting Back" Filmed In And Around Frankford". Frankford Gazette. Frankford: Keep the Faith Ministry. Retrieved January 7, 2017. 
  15. ^ "Fighting Back". Box Office Mojo. United States: Retrieved January 7, 2017. 
  16. ^ "Fighting Back". Rotten Tomatoes. United States: Fandango. Retrieved January 7, 2017. 
  17. ^ Shepard, Richard F. (May 22, 1982). "'FIGHTING BACK'". The New York Times. New York City: The New York Times Company. Retrieved January 7, 2017. 
  18. ^ Arnold, Gary (May 26, 1982). "Motley 'Fighting Back'". The Washington Post. Washington, D.C.: Nash Holdings LLC. Retrieved January 7, 2017. 
  19. ^ "Fighting Back". Paramount Home Media Distribution. Hollywood: Paramount Pictures. ASIN B001GD3DDG. Retrieved January 7, 2017. 
  20. ^ "Fighting Back". Paramount Home Media Distribution. Hollywood: Paramount Pictures. ASIN B001GD3DDG. Retrieved January 7, 2017. 


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