Bruce Willis stars in this Sci-Fi thriller about ultimate resort: VICE, where customers can play out their wildest fantasies with artificial inhabitants who look like humans.
In the wild and wooly world of tomorrow, synthetic humans have been pretty much banned from all walks of society. Except sleazy CEO Bruce Willis, playing one of his finest portrayals of a tired Bruce Willis, has greased some palms allowing him to open a resort solely staffed by faux-humans. And what does he do with them? He lets people pay good money to hang out in his resort and do whatever to them from rape to murder. The Synthetics are then patched up, reset and left to do it all over again the next morning. Think Westworld but with more rubbing together of body parts, and then disposing of the parts afterwards.
Thomas Jane, who was last seen in the Australian crime caper, Drive Hard, with John Cusack, plays an unnecessarily gritty cop plucked straight out of the 80s who is looking for an excuse to shut down Willis’ parade. He also chews a toothpick in a non-ironic fashion. That’s the kind of hardnosed gumshoe we’re looking at, people.
If you’ve seen any promotion for Vice, you’ll probably have assumed that this is royal rumble between the aforementioned Willis and Jane. Well, you’re understandably misinformed. Whilst both men share at least one scene together, they’re merely bookends to the story of one of the resort’s artificial workers, Kelly, played by All My Children’s Ambyr Childers. After a brutal murder, something goes wrong with Kelly’s reset and she begins to become self-aware of the exploitative life she’s’ been living. In one particularly brutal scene, she experiences an omniflashback of every time she’s been killed, assaulted and sexually abused. Managing to escape from the resort, she becomes involved with a lone wolf who may just be the answer to all her problems.
Vice isn’t necessarily a bad film. Yet, neither is it a good film. Instead it’s a perfunctory little number that goes through the motions, ensuring things blow up when they need to. Jane manages to growl his lines, Childers is just sexy enough to ensure that the folks at home are paying attention without it feeling icky and Willis is awake long enough to justify whatever amount of money he was being paid.
Whilst we’re on that subject, we are definitely seeing the emergence of Bruce Willis, the DTV star here. There are not enough mathematicians, holy men and philosophers who can get me to fully believe Willis was completely engaged or invested in Vice. The majority of his scenes are set within the confines of his office, whilst his third act showdown against Jane and Childers is clearly the poorly edited result of three actors all doing their parts on different days. Obviously Brucey isn’t the first – ‘Oh hai Danny Dyer and Steven Segal!’ – but his indifference to performing, or even just not looking bored, makes his tour of duty in RED 2 look like a 2-year-old dizzy on sugar.
If the residents of GTA V became sentient then Vice could very well be their primal scream. After all, the film does make the suggestion that just because someone isn’t defined as human, it doesn’t mean we should take pleasure from his or her pain. And what does it say about you as a human if you’re willing to unleash your testosterone fuelled, violent libido on someone because you categorically know you’ll get away with it? Who’s the lesser human now, eh? EH?! Well, Vice at least tries to offer up some scintillating dialogue to the debate. Just don’t expect it to dwell too long on the whole ‘I think, therefore I am’ philosophy. Not when there are scenes of Childers mowing down security guards, using a gun that’s bigger than her.
Vice is neither big, nor clever. However it’s certainly dumb enough to warrant a passing glance to kill an afternoon. Watch it and wonder aloud about whatever happened to the man who gave us John McClane.
Vice is now available on bluray per Lionsgate