It takes the culmination of many factors to make a truly great movie, but it only takes one thing to make a truly bad movie. That one thing, of course, is the script. If a script is bad, there is no chance at all--as in none--that a movie will ever be any good. It doesn't matter if the cast is good, the direction competent, the cinematography and the editing all up to par, if the script sucks, so too shall the film itself. And that's the problem with Vice.
Michael Madsen sleepwalks much of his way through Vice as Max Walker, a bad cop working narcotics whose pretentious voiceover philosophizing is made all the more laughable as he smacks around a hooker trying to give him a handjob. Max Walker is a bit like Harvey Kietel in Bad Lieutenant, only not nearly as bad, which makes him far less interesting. But make no mistake, Max is a bad guy. When he guns down an innocent woman during a botched undercover drug bust, he gets fellow cop Salt (Daryl Hannah) to help him cover it up. Shortly after the drug bust, where Max killed two drug dealers as well as the innocent bystander, his team starts getting bumped off. Are the cop killings payback for Max gunning down the dope dealers, or is there more to the picture?
Well, of course there's more to the picture, because in films that try to be this clever, there's always more going on than meets the eye. As it turns out, one of the cops on Max's team took some of the dope for themselves, which has set off the killings by the drug dealers who want it back. But which cop is it? If the answer is not obvious, then consider yourself among the people who have not seen enough movies to figure predictable crap like this out within the first ten minutes. But if you are the sort of person who can figure out the by-the-number machinations of sub par films like this, you will find yourself restlessly sitting through a largely disappointing movie, just to prove to yourself that you are smarter than the script.
Vice is not a terrible film in that it is completely lacking in any sort of creative merit and is therefore completely unworthy of watching. It is, however, so remarkably unremarkable in its execution, and so predictable, maudlin, hackneyed and unengaging that it would be better served if it was merely a total piece of shit. If it were complete shit--and it does come close--then at least it would have something to brag about. But as it stands, Vice is merely a film that borders on looking presentable (the cinematography is good), that is hampered by what appears to be a considerably low budget, and has a cast of accomplished actors that all seem to be shambling their way through a film with a script that is a gross waste of all the ink and paper it was printed on.
Any talent displayed by director Raul Inglis is negated by the script he also wrote. I can not think of one scene, character or element of Inglis' script that makes Vice memorable, or even remotely worth watching. And it would be one thing if Inglis' script was just bad, but when performed by an actor like Madsen, who vacillates between looking like he would rather be getting an enema and chewing up the scene like a school of starving piranha in a feeding frenzy, the whole affair becomes a surreal exercise in craptacular filmmaking.
Vice is presented in 1.33:1 widescreen format. The picture quality of the film, and the image transfer is the best part of the movie. The picture looks good, and the solid camera work by director of photography Andrzej Sekula--the films best element--is heightened by a very good transfer. Too bad the rest of the movie isn't as good as the image quality of the video transfer.
Vice is presented in English 5.1 Dolby Digital, with optional Spanish subtitles. The sound mix and audio levels are not good. The dialog often competes with the music and effects to be heard, which may not be all that bad, considering the fact that the dialog is so bad.
Feel free to choose between two behind the scenes featurettes, a look at the world premiere of Vice, a music video and the theatrical trailer. I watched none of these features, because to be one hundred percent honest, this movie sucked, and I could give a crap about any of the bonus material. Extra material is meant for people who enjoyed the movie, who don't feel the film itself was a tremendous waste of their time.
If you are trying to decide between Vice and some other movie, go with the other movie, because at least that way you have a chance of seeing something that doesn't suck.
David Walker is the creator of BadAzz MoFo, a nationally published film critic, and the Writer/Director of Black Santa's Revenge with Ken Foree now on DVD [Buy it now]