First things first. Trigger warning. If you or someone you know has been the victim of domestic violence, this movie may not be for you. It is extremely uncomfortable to watch. Honestly, I wanted to stop halfway through the movie, but I needed to write this review.
Wilde plays Sadie, a victim of domestic violence who is now a vigilante who helps women escape abusive situations. Sadie goes to great lengths to conceal her identity. She wears different wigs and contact lenses and only pays cash as she moves from one cheap motel to another. She does extreme workouts and trains constantly. She gives notes to the leader of a support group at a local women’s shelter to give to women in need of help, with strict instructions to destroy the note after they have made contact with her.
We first see Sadie in action getting ready to pay a visit to Andrea Shaund (Betsy Aidem), a woman living with an abusive husband. Sadie wears a blonde wig, contacts, adds wrinkles to her face with makeup and dresses conservatively. When Mr. Shaund gets home from work, he thinks Sadie is from the insurance company. She proceeds to give him explicit instructions for turning over the house and a large sum of money to his wife. She tells him that after he has made arrangements for those things to be done, he will leave and never come back. When he raises his hand to strike Sadie, she goes into ninja mode and kicks his ass, until he gives in to her demands.
Sadie isn’t playing around, and neither is this movie. A lot of the film is shot documentary style, focusing on the women’s faces in the support group as each one tells her horrifying story of abuse. There is no glamorous hair and makeup in this movie. Everything is raw and gritty and painful. You can feel each woman’s pain as she tells the group the things her abuser did to her and how she got out. Sadie is always sitting alone, a bit separated from the group and looking out the window during the group sessions.
Sadie takes on another persona, kicks an abuser’s ass and then we are told her backstory. Her husband was an extreme survivalist and frequently took Sadie and her son camping to teach them how to live off the land. He would even go so far as to break her bones and then teach her how to set them. One night when he returns home and insists the family leave and live off the grid, Sadie decides she has had enough. She takes her son and tries to flee. Her husband catches up to them and what happens next is the beginning of Sadie becoming the vigilante she is now. The training her psychotic survivalist husband forced on her is now going to be put to good use.
Olivia Wilde is outstanding as Sadie. She is fit and she is fierce. Aside from the subject matter being difficult to take in, I had some problems with some of the character choices made by Sophie later in the film, after her husband finds her and kidnaps her. This movie is extremely well done, the story is solid, and the performances are strong and emotional. I found myself longing for some form of relief at the end of this movie, and even though Sadie’s story takes a positive turn, I still felt quite traumatized from the experience. See A VIGILANTE for Olivia Wilde’s performance and the message it offers, but don’t say I didn’t warn you that it is an incredibly arduous film to watch.