Vice movie full length review - Highly derivative of better films
"Vice" is not a great movie by any stretch of the imagination. It's derivative of several movies, including "Westworld," "The Long Kiss Goodnight," "Blade Runner," "The Matrix" and "Strange Days.
" The script offers some interesting notions, but fails to develop them in an interesting fashion and relies on a deus ex machina plot device. Technical elements are not bad, but the project relies on a lot of action sequences that aren't executed very well, apparently due to budget limitations. The production values are adequate to suggest what the film could have been but not sufficient to deliver on the promise of the premise.
That premise involves an exclusive resort staffed by genetically engineered androids where guests can enact their wildest fantasies without repercussions. The dramatic question is whether this provides a safe outlet for antisocial impulses or encourages amplified behavior in the parallel real world. But that dramatic question is muddled by complications that arise when one of the androids becomes sentient.
The script, penned by the writing team of Andre Fabrizio and Jeremy Passmore, who also wrote "The Prince," another mediocre Bruce Willis vehicle, would need a six-week Charles Atlas course to beef up to a status that might charitably be termed weak and lame. If you're looking for character development, inner conflict, ambiguity, dialogue that isn't on-the-nose or expository, subtext, allegory, memorable lines, a hero's journey, or just about anything else of quality in screen writing, you would be well advised to look elsewhere.
The acting is not bad. Ambyr Childers does a decent job with the material she's given, including the action scenes. Bruce Willis plays an unimaginative role that seems written expressly for him, but does as well as can be expected with what he's given. Thomas Jane gives his performance a lot of energy, but again seems limited by his material.
The guests at this resort are free to indulge whatever fantasy they want without fear of repercussions. But they all gravitate toward either crimes against women or crimes against society, after warming up with a little hedonistic partying at an upscale discothèque where they indulge in the fantasy of being on the list. None of them seems to have any fantasy that seems remotely positive or psychologically normal, such as being a fireman or astronaut. None of them seems to suffer from any physical disabilities, such as being old, overweight or female. And none seems inclined to indulge in any of the other deadly sins, such as gluttony, sloth, envy or pride. It's all lust, anger or greed. They all seem to be loners, as none seems to come with a friend or significant other.
The androids suffer from the L-shaped sheet syndrome, a mocking reference to Hollywood films and television programs from the 1950s-60s where bed sheets covered females to the bosom but only covered men to the waist. Their abilities seem contrived to fit the immediate exigencies of the script rather than any cohesive vision of near-future technology.
It would have made sense to give the androids extraordinary strength. They are subject to extraordinary wear and tear and are on call 24/7. It would also have made sense to make the guards androids so that when they become cannon fodder for the shoot-outs, the audience doesn't lose empathy for the protagonist. I would think that such a resort would charge the customers for the amount of damage they cause. Why should the client who wants an orgy with seven Ethiopian ostrich fan girls pay the same price as the guy who wants to blow up a building in a terrorist attack (not that either fantasy is depicted)? If the guests begin to escalate their violent behavior when they return to the outside world, wouldn't they also escalate their behavior within the resort and become more of a problem for its management? In a lot of ways, the script seems superficial and not fully developed.
As mindless diversion, the movie isn't bad. It has a few good ideas that could have been developed into a much more compelling screenplay. Instead it rehashes familiar notions from prior films without expanding or enriching them. It doesn't have much of a moral, if any at all. What is the moral? It's bad to try to realize your fantasies? Androids are human also with real feelings? Given their freedom, humans will become callous, while androids will become empathetic?
I haven't the faintest notion of what the filmmakers are trying to say about technology, violence and human empathy.
The film falls into that nebulous zone between being a waste of time and enriching. It's not particularly exciting, suspenseful, cathartic, meaningful, thought provoking, sexy, erotic, violent, dramatic or anything else. It's a little of this and a little of that without distinguishing itself on any front. It looks and feels like a made for television movie that's trying to represent itself as a theatrical release.