I feel like we should ban these low-budget, high-concept sci-fi movies that completely squander whatever potential they had. Or maybe we can just ridicule them in hopes that the people making them eventually get ashamed enough to stop. Vice starts out with an interesting premise but eventually devolves into a blue-tinted series of shootouts, all while three different characters, from seemingly three different movies, all have to finish their various arcs.
One of the characters is a cop, Roy (Thomas Jane), who really, really wants to bring down a corporation called VICE, where customers pay to act out their fantasies with human-like robots called “Residents.” The next is the founder over that corporation, Julian Michaels (Bruce Willis), who is the villain because we need a villain, and because maybe the Residents are just as human as we are, or something. Meanwhile, one of the Residents, Kelly (Ambyr Childers), gains sentience and runs away. So, we’ve got a detective movie, a “cartoon villain” movie, and a “run from everyone” movie all mashed together in a film that doesn’t really use any of their ideas to the fullest extent.
Honestly, I felt like I’d seen Vice before. I hadn’t, but it doesn’t have any original ideas of its own, and even the ideas that it steals are so muddled and underutilized that it essentially becomes a generic sci-fi action movie in which one of its participants is a sentient robot. It’s mostly just shootouts and chase sequences, sometimes broken up by pointless exposition.
We’re supposed to care about Kelly, and about Roy, although I can’t really figure out why. Roy is just some random cop who hates VICE for some reason, while Kelly is a robot who’s been imprinted with random memories. Nobody has an actual personality of their own, there’s no development or depth to any of the characters, and the entire film is cold and uninvolving from start to finish. Does it even have any points to make about artificial intelligence? Ha! It isn’t ambitious enough to have points to make.
About the only thing that Vice has to say is that if Purge-like fantasies are played out, it wouldn’t work as was presented in that movie. Instead, it just causes more violence. That is why Roy says he hates VICE and wants to bring the company down, despite nobody else having any problems with it and very little proof being presented from his side. The film’s not really about that, anyway; it just uses that perspective to throw an angry cop into the mix.
What’s going on with Bruce Willis? He looks increasingly uninterested in these direct-to-video roles, and yet he seems to be taking a great deal of them. Why? I mean, I get when someone like Eric Roberts does it, since he seems to be at least enjoying them, but Willis just looks bored. Is he in need of money? Does someone have something on him? Is he doing these roles on a dare? I seriously have to wonder if Willis has just stopped caring.
Willis is outperformed by ever single actor in Vice. Yes, even that extra whose name you’ll never find out and who looked right at the camera even though he wasn’t supposed to (there’s always one). Thomas Jane and Ambyr Childers at least seem like they care about the project. I guess it helps that they’re also frequently having to be on the move, while Willis’ character is mostly stationary, but still. They put in a bit of effort. They don’t make the film watchable, as their characters are terribly uninteresting, but, hey, at least they try.
Vice is a terrible movie that you have absolutely no reason to see. Even if you think the premise sounds interesting — and on paper it does — you’ll just wind up being disappointed by the end product. It muddles its way through 90 minutes and takes what might be interesting ideas and completely tosses them aside in favor of chase scenes and shootouts, all shot through the blue-tinted lens, because blue is cool. Bruce Willis, who may be the film’s main draw, is absolutely awful, looking like he’s ready to fall asleep at any moment. Vice is horrible and you should not see it.