At this point of his career, Bruce Willis’ choices in parts are a crap shoot. While 50% of the films he makes are legitimately great (Looper and Moonrise Kingdom), the other half go straight to video and die. This latest project is a reminder that along with half-baked horror, the death knell of January is filled to the brim with bad actioners seeking a home.
With a decent cast in Willis and Thomas Jane, Vice might have been able to salvage something worth watching out of this mess, but there is no effort on the screen at all. The blame lays entirely at the feet of writers Andre Fabrizio and Jeremy Passmore and director Brian A. Miller, who worked with Willis previously on The Prince and shouldn’t have been given the chance to work again. The premise is the only interesting prospect of the film, but even that is copy and pasted from other works. Vice is two parts Westworld, one part Blade Runner and all parts awful.
Willis plays Julian Michaels, an entrepreneur who has perfected the art of cloning. Of course like any other deranged millionaire Michaels decides to use these clones to populate a resort where the wealthy can stage fights, sexcapades and all debauchery imaginable. Despite the billing, Willis is only in the film for a few scenes and Thomas Jane, a faint glimmer of a highlight as a beat cop with a grudge, shows up occasionally. The only real character with any substantial screen-time is Kelly, one of the clones on Michael’s resort.
Kelly (Ambyr Childers) finally wakes up from her pitiful existence and decides to escape, meeting up with Roy (Jane) who is eager to shut down this playground for sadists. Together, the story could have become a revenge thriller, but the skimpy budget only allows for downscale action scenes and lots of exposition provided by Bryan Greenberg. Childers and Jane blow their way to Michaels’ doorstep, but even that final showdown is less enjoyable because Willis is phoning it in so much you can hear the dial tone blaring in the background.
Thomas Jane, down for mugging it up in B-movies (see Drive Hard for an entertaining bad movie) tries to make something watchable out of this, but it’s too much for any actor to take on by themselves. Take for example this exchange between Roy and his chief when the chief unironically threatens “you’re one step away from losing your badge.” That’s the foremost problem with Vice, it presents a good deal of material and dialogue that has been offered by better filmmakers before and expects applause for being so clever.
HBO will be offering a remake of Westworld in miniseries form in just a few months, feel free to take that story in instead of this one. Vice is inept at its handling of story, but even the technical aspects completely beleaguer Miller. The score is deafening, the action is dull and each and every line may as well be CTRL-Ced from another, well-known script. I didn’t expect anything original from this movie, but I did expect at least a few seconds of escapism. I hope Bruce Willis was compensated well for Vice, this critic could never be paid enough to watch it again.