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Vice
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by Peter Sobczynski

"Inherently Awful"
1 stars

Last week saw the release--well, a few theaters and VOD--of "Predestination," a low-budget sci-fi thriller that proved to be a delightful surprise thanks to an endlessly clever premise and screenplay, strong performances and a smart and stylish approach that went a long way towards overcome its presumed budgetary limitations. In some misguided attempt to balance the cinematic scales, this week sees the release--well, a few theaters and VOD--of "Vice," a low-budget sci-fi thriller that may well go down as one of the most gracelessly idiotic wastes of time of this still-young year.

Borrowing heavily from any number of sources, most obviously the 1973 genre favorite "Westworld," the conceit of the film is that there is now a adult resort called Vice populated with hi-tech robots programmed to meet the needs of the clientele, no matter how violent or perverse they may be. Alas, when the nightly memory wipe fails to take with one of the bots, Kelly (Ambyr Childers), and causes her to remember her recent violent demise, she flips out and escapes into the town outside Vice's borders, an economically devastated area totally dependent on the revenues derived from Vice for its survival. Hot on Kelly's trail is Roy (Thomas Jane), a two-fisted cop who plays by his own rules and who hates Vice for what it has done to his city--after getting a taste for simulated criminal activities, visitors find it difficult to flip that switch off once they leave the confines of the Rapiest Place On Earth. Also in pursuit are the forces marshaled by Vice's owner (Bruce Willis), who stands to lose billions if word gets out about what has happened.

"Vice" is such a stupid and useless exercise that an attempt encapsulate all of its flaws runs the risk of turning into an extremely long list. For starters, not only does the screenplay by Andre Fabrizio and Jeremy Passmore not have an original idea to speak of, it doesn't even make any interesting use of the stuff that it pilfers--there is not one plot twist or development on display here that viewers will not see coming from several miles away. Likewise, director Brian A. Miller utterly fails to bring it to cinematic life--the look of this shocking futuristic playpen is chintzy as can be and the various bacchanals we bear witness to are less shocking than the news footage of the riots following the Ohio State victory--and his handling of the action scenes is so markedly incompetent that the film could be taught in classes as a way of illustrating how not to approach such things.

On the acting front, Childers delivers the closest thing to a good performance but is too often let down by a screenplay that cannot think of anything of interest for her to do. On the opposite end of the spectrum, Thomas Jane is absolutely horrible--he somehow manages to be both over-the-top and wooden at the same time and there is even one point where it frankly seems as though he is flubbing his lines. That said, at least he is putting in some effort, which is more than can be said for Bruce Willis, who appears to have shot all of his scenes in a day or two and does just enough to ensure that his voice and image are recorded by the cameras and nothing more--Laurence Olivier gave a more committed performance in that "Sky Captain" thing by comparison and he had been dead for 15 years at that point.

Seemingly designed to play in largely empty theaters in the middle of January, "Vice" could not be more useless and ineffectual even if it tried to be. Unless you are a Bruce Willis completist trying to understand why he has been turing up more often these days in cheap, barely released schlock that cannot possibly be paying him that much to trash his reputation, there is no reason at all to sit through any of this, especially since most of you have pretty much seen all it has to offer before in far more entertaining iterations. Put it this way--there is a great, great film with "Vice" in the title playing in theaters right now and believe me, this one is not it.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=28383&reviewer=389
originally posted: 01/16/15 10:33:20
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USA
  16-Jan-2015 (R)
  DVD: 17-Mar-2015

UK
  N/A

Australia
  16-Jan-2015
  DVD: 17-Mar-2015




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