Vice Film Review
Thematically related to far better movies like I, Robot, Surrogates and – most ambitiously – Westworld, Vice is fatally wounded by a restrictive budget, a terrible female lead, and a comatose Bruce Willis.The premise is both laudable and intriguing – and definitely rich for mining – with a near-future scenario that sees a powerful corporation providing exotic entertainment in the form of a very real form of virtual reality. Human-like clone-robots are used to populate this environment, where high-paying guests can rape, torture and kill their way through their most grotesque desires. Whether you want to be a bank robber or a serial killer, your deepest, darkest fantasies can become a reality at VICE. When a ‘resident’ slave escapes though, a kill squad is sent after her, and it’s up to one lone cop to get to the seedy truth behind the resort's powerful organisation.Not wholly unlike The Purge, where a high concept backdrop was underutilised in what was essentially a home invasion flick, Vice’s greatest ideas are often sidelined – sometimes by choice, but more likely by budgetary constraints – in favour of stripping things down to more banal run-and-gun tedium. Which is a shame, because, aside from the acting, the action is distinctly underwhelming throughout and, oddly, its only in a few brief snippets of dialogue that we find some semblance of interest in this mess. There’s definitely a good idea in here – and, more importantly, one which perhaps doesn’t simply retread its oblique Westworld heritage – but it’s almost entirely wasted.
Blu-ray Picture QualityVice’s UK Region B-locked Blu-ray release sports a strong 1080p/AVC-encoded High Definition video presentation framed in the movie’s original aspect ratio of 2.40:1 widescreen. These days even low budget fare can look halfway decent thanks to digital cinematography, and, for all the problems that the movie itself has, the visuals of Vice fit into this category, providing decent detail and clarity, with no obviously intrusive defects.
The film may not be particularly imaginative, visually, but the presentation looks far from bad.
As stated, detail is largely impressive, with strong, well-textured close-ups that come with no overt problems. The colour scheme takes the mandatory route down into blue-dominated territory, skewing the palette often to such an extreme that it can impinge upon the aforementioned otherwise stable detail. If it was meant to give the film a cool, futuristic edge, then it doesn’t even come close to realising this. Black levels are strong enough, although nothing to write home about, and whilst there’s nothing overtly wrong with the presentation, it’s never going to be used as demo material.
Blu-ray Sound Quality
The accompanying DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track also does its job perfectly well, despite offering nothing particularly noteworthy to report on beyond the score.
Dialogue is promoted up front and centre, with reasonable definition, although Willis’s Seagal-like mumbling don’t particularly help with intelligibility, and Thomas Jane’s chosen drawl isn’t exactly clear and coherent either. It’s only perhaps the lead actress’s poorly-delivered lines which remain distinctive; an irony to be sure. Effects are limited at best, with a few decent gunshots, but again nothing particularly noteworthy. There’s certainly no crafted atmosphere in any of the sequences, with surrounds, rears and the LFE channel almost dragged along for this uneventful ride. Perhaps the only thing of note is the score by electronic band Hybrid, who’ve actually worked on a number of excellent film scores, including a bunch of films by the late Tony Scott – like Man on Fire. Whilst their work here isn’t exactly revolutionary, it – much like the digital look of the film – does try to help you forget the quality/cost of the production you’re watching.
Blu-ray ExtrasWe get an Audio Commentary by writer/director Brian A. Miller, and actors Ambyr Childers and Bryan Greenberg who slog their way through a pretty uninformative offering, more interested in naming every single one of the extras than exploring any particular background into the piece, as well as a short and fluffy making-of Featurette and some Trailers.
Vice Blu-ray VerdictIs Vice unbearable to watch? No. There are initially enough decent ideas to get you intrigued, and there are enough fleeting moments of interest sparingly peppered across the piece to just about draw you back in despite increasingly waning attention. But it’s one of those movies which just needed a bigger budget, a much better director, a better cast, and undoubtedly a significantly better lead heroine. Wasting its high concept backdrop, it gambles on developing the ideas with a sequel – again, not wholly unlike The Purge – but that will almost certainly never happen. And based on this evidence, that’s only a good thing.
Thematically related to far better movies, Vice is fatally wounded by a restrictive budget, a terrible female lead, and a comatose Bruce Willis.
The Blu-ray release promotes decent video and audio – although there’s nothing here to particularly write home about – and a selection of extra features which are perhaps more than you’d expect for this kind of low budget fare. There are definitely worse movies out there, and at least Vice doesn’t outright remake Westworld, but, by the same token, it is a rather fundamentally flawed waste of a halfway decent idea.
You can buy Vice on Blu-ray here
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