Director: Brian A. Miller
Cast: Bruce Willis, Thomas Jane, Ambyr Childers, Bryan Greenberg, Johnathon Schaech, Charlotte Kirk
Runtime: 1 hr 33 mins
Rating: NC-16 (Violence and Coarse Language)
Released By: Shaw
Opening Day: 29 January 2015
Synopsis: Julian Michaels (Bruce Willis) has designed the ultimate resort: VICE, where anything goes and the customers can play out their wildest fantasies with artificial inhabitants who look, think and feel like humans. When an artificial (Ambyr Childers) becomes self-aware and escapes, she finds herself caught in the crossfire between Julian's mercenaries and a cop (Thomas Jane) who is hell-bent on shutting down Vice, and stopping the violence once and for all.
Its poster proudly touts it as of the pedigree behind ‘Lone Survivor’ and ‘Escape Plan’, but really what it should be saying is that ‘Vice’ is from the writer and director of ‘The Prince’, which was a D-grade ripoff of ‘Taken’ and one of the worst action movies we’d seen last year. If there was ever such a thing as foolish consistency, then ‘Vice’ is utterly guilty of it. Indeed, its writers Andre Fabrizio and Jeremy Passmore as well as its director Brian A. Miller have not learnt anything from their previous debacle, and this piss-poor attempt at a science-fiction thriller is cause enough for some audiences to turn away from the genre.
The title in fact refers to a pleasure resort, where human-like “artificials” – made up mostly of beautiful women – serve their depraved customers’ most depraved and illegal fantasies, whether raping or killing without any consequence. As an early bad sign, look out for the strip club-like design of the place, which is so unimaginatively designed that it looks like the movie was filmed on a leftover set of 90s sci-fi fare. As another bad sign, look out for how Miller cuts awkwardly between a haggard detective Roy (Thomas Jane) shoving his way into the resort to pick up a suspect for which he had just been granted an arrest warrant and two women (Ambyr Childers and Charlotte Kirk) who are making their way to work on what is ostensibly the last day for the former.
As the story goes, Roy is convinced that the place breeds criminal activity by blurring the line between fantasy and reality. He cannot wait to shut the place down, and he is convinced that his captain is on its owner’s payroll. The latter happens to be an entrepreneur named Julian Michaels (Bruce Willis), which the script depicts as an utterly ineffectual corporate type who does little but stand behind his technicians and engineers in a so-called control room and asks them inane questions when one of his androids becomes self-aware and escapes from his facility. There are no twists and no turns to what comes next – the android named Kelly (Childers) is hunted by Julian’s SWAT-like minions as if he owns the city, and finds some unlikely help in Roy as well as her original designer (Bryan Greenberg).
One could think of many a sci-fi classic from which scriptwriters Fabrizio and Passmore seem to have ripped off, but certainly the least they could do is to make a decent job out of it. Instead, we get some hint of themes like A.I.- exploitation that are never fully developed, and suggestions of corruption hinted at but never go further than that. The character fare no better, and what we are left with is a generic chase movie that is so poorly filmed it only accentuates the story’s shortcomings. Yes, we know it sounds harsh, but Miller is a hopeless director who can’t seem to shoot a decent action sequence as well as a colour-blind one who covers his muddle of shoot-outs and chases in an inexplicable blue tint – indeed, only such a terribly inept director could imagine Kelly escaping from Vice’s well-armed security detail under hails of machine-gun fire without even a single bullet or scratch.
Of the cast, only Willis seems to put into perspective his motivation for appearing in the movie. Yes, his perennially bored and uninterested look says more than enough about how this – as ‘The Prince’ – was a mere paycheck for him; still, fans of the bald-pated actor should nonetheless lament at how he has sunk to never-before lows. Thomas Jane desperately needs a career revival, and at least seems to try to make the movie better than what it is, but a severely underwritten character renders that moot. And Childers… well, let’s just say that she is well-cast early on when playing the part of the self-unaware android but not so much when her android supposedly wakes up.
There’s no other way to say this – ‘Vice’ is a terrible movie, from idea to concept to execution, an unabashed embarrassment for everyone involved, and a sure-fire contender for the worst film of the year. It is a travesty of the sci-fi genre, a dystopian sci-fi so dull and lifeless that it is truly a sin that it even exists.
(Utterly devoid of any redeeming qualities, this bargain basement sci-fi thriller will surely be one of your worst films of the year if you allow yourself to see it)
Review by Gabriel Chong