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Zimring suggests that two elements require special attention: first, that ‘the celebration of private and community use of force implies some distrust of government’. He continues: The enthusiastic vigilante either distrusts the government’s intentions or its capacity to keep the peace, or both. The vigilante tradition is 39 S. Simkin, Early Modern Tragedy and the Cinema of Violence © Stevie Simkin 2006 40 Justice and Revenge one which values the community’s interests and those of the individual more highly than it values the prerogatives of government.

The Church had already maintained this strong line, militating against revenge, for some time. The scriptural authority most often cited was the prohibition set out in Romans 12:19 (‘Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord’), along with similar verses in the book of Hebrews (10:30) and the Old Testament book of Deuteronomy (32:35). In The Spanish Tragedy (1584) Hieronimo makes reference to the Biblical injunction: Vindicta mihi! Ay, heaven will be reveng’d of every ill, Nor will they suffer murder unrepaid: Then stay, Hieronimo, attend their will, For mortal men may not appoint their time.

The second period is the early 1970s, where the sudden proliferation of violent films preoccupied with revenge and, specifically, the close conceptual relative of revenge, vigilantism, is considered in relation to the political upheavals in America at that time. Although the cop action/thriller has been a staple of the Hollywood dream factory since the late 1940s, there are two noticeable ‘spikes’ along Hollywood’s timeline when the vigilante sub-genre has come into favour: in the early 1970s, and in the first few years of the new millennium, the figure of the revenger seems to have gripped the collective consciousness of film-makers and audiences, especially in the USA.

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