21st Jun2015

‘Vice’ DVD Review

by Phil Wheat

Stars: Bruce Willis, Ambyr Childers, Thomas Jane, Bryan Greenberg, Johnathon Schaech, Charlotte Kirk, Brett Granstaff, Ryan O’Nan, David Gordon, Colin Egglesfield, Cameron Brexler, Jesse Pruett, Tyler Jon Olson, Don Harvey, Lydia Hull | Written by Andre Fabrizio, Jeremy Passmore | Directed by Brian A. Miller


Take one part The Matrix, one part Surrogates and mix in a dash of video gmae Mirror’s Edge and you have Vice, a Cyberpunk action flick that – for older film fans like myself – plays as little more than a modern-day clone of Westworld and its sequel; which also shares a lot in common with the likes of Mamoru Oshii’s Ghost in the Shell sequel Innocence.

Designed by Julian Michaels (Willis), Vice is the ultimate resort where anything goes, allowing customers to play out their wildest fantasies and fulfil their deepest, darkest desires with artificial inhabitants who look, think and feel like real humans. Things take a turn for the worse when the resort’s existence is put in jeopardy after an artificial (Childers) becomes self-aware and escapes, finding herself caught in the cross fire between Julian’s mercenaries and a cop (Jane) who is hell-bent on shutting down Vice, and stopping the violence once and for all.

The idea that people can enter the Vice “resort” and do whatever they like with, and to, the artificial life form makes for a truly interesting morality play… What if you could commit a crime and get away with it? If could murder someone with zero consequences would you? Would a lack of moral compass turn thoughts of rape and murder into real acts of atrocity? And if you could go into this fantasty world and live out your most dangerous homicidal tendencies would that effect your morality long-term and make you want to kill in “real” life or would it satiate your primal urges?

Sadly those themes are abandoned once A.I. Kelly (Childers) escapes from her creators and instead Vice takes a turn into your standard sci-fi action movie. You know the ones, the types of sci-fi flick that clogged up video store shelves in the mid-90s, the onces chunred out by Albert Pyun on budgets a tenth of what they spent here. The type of movies that made stars of Matthias Hues and Olivier Gruner. Only this is 2015 and – even though I love a good direct-to-market, sci-fi schlockfest – this is not the type of filmic twist that you expect from a decently budgeted Bruce Willis movie.

Of course movies featuring technology gone awry is nothing new in Hollywood, as are themes surrounding artificial intelligence – just see the aforementioned titles for recent examples, along with the likes of Ex_Machina – however Vice pales in comparision to those films in much the same way as Asda Smart Price coke pales in comparison to Coca-Cola – in other words a LOT!

That’s not to say there aren’t some pretty good ideas in Vice, it’s just that they are hidden well below the surface of the convoluted plot – a plot that loses steam way before the film ends and throws in some odd story choices and a sub-plot that works as mothing more than a distraction from the central tale and totally wastes the talents of Bryan Greenberg.

Vice is out now on DVD and VOD.



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