After killing her rapist in self-defense, young and pretty Bonnie (Michelle Newkirk) is sentenced to two years in prison. It’s one of those tough women’s prisons where all of the inmates dress like they’ve just come back from shooting an 80s music video and where the prisoners only have arcade games, a Olympic-size swimming pool, and a fully stocked gym to help them pass the time. It’s so tough that, when it comes to conjugal visits, the prisoners have to settle for being driven to a nearby motel. It’s the toughest prison since Leavenworth.
Because she’s blonde and innocent-looking, Bonnie is targeted by the predatory Kay Butler (Sandy Martin). After Bonnie rejects Kay’s advances in the public shower room (while all of the other prisoners watch), Kay get her revenge by giving Bonnie a hot dose and then shoving her over a railing. Even though all the evidence indicates that Bonnie was murdered, the official cause of death is ruled to be suicide.
What no one considered was that Bonnie’s older sister, a Hollywood stuntwoman named Laurie (played by real-life stuntwoman Karen Chase), would want revenge. Determined to investigate the prison on her own, Laurie steals a judge’s car. When that same judge attempts to suspend Laurie’s sentence, Laurie attacks him in the courtroom. (Why would a judge be allowed to oversee a trial that directly involved him as a witness?) Laurie finally gets her wish and is sentenced to prison. Having now compiled the type of criminal record that will probably make her unemployable for the rest of her life, Laurie sets out to discover who is responsible for the death of her sister. Soon, Laurie is tracking down and murdering every member of Kay’s gang, all the while trying to avoid getting caught by the head guard, Miss Dice (Roberta Collins).
In many ways, Vendetta is a typical 80s women-in-prison movie. It has everything that you would expect to find in one of these movies: predatory lesbians, a victimized innocent, corrupt guards, and a gratuitous shower scene. What sets Vendetta apart from similar films is that the prison is more of a health club than a prison and, while she’s hardly the world’s greatest actress, Karen Chase looks very credible when she’s beating the other inmates to death. As a result, the fight scenes are more exciting than they usually are in a film like this and Karen Chase’s Laurie is a stronger heroine. She can hold her own against anyone who comes at her. Sandy Martin is also an effective villain and there’s actually some unexpected depth to her character. She actually gets upset when her gang start to get killed, not just because she’s losing people who are willing to do her bidding but also because she’s losing the only people that she feels close to. Thanks to Karen Chase’s fight skills and Sandy Martin’s unexpected performance, Vendetta is better the than the average 80s prison flick.