Vice online movie review - Could've used more work
When it comes to lower budget film releases, the movie genre to probably have the most trouble looking anywhere near authentic is in the realm of science fiction.
Most science fiction films today require a lot of heavy CGI and high tech gadgetry in order to look somewhat presentable for its genre and the audience viewing it. However, people tend to forget how ambitious their plans may be and the error of their ways ends up showing up in the end product. For this particular feature though, this is only one of a number of issues that is noticeable. Directed by Brian A. Miller, this would-be sci-fi thriller has a tough time throwing out any original ideas to the table that haven't already been used. Writers Andre Fabrizio and Jeremy Passmore (both San Andreas (2015)) don't seem to have a full grasp on what exactly they wanted the movie get across.
The story takes place in some undated future where a new society arises called Vice. Established by a man named Julian (Bruce Willis), Vice was created as an outlet for the public, so that for any fantasy they wanted to make for themselves was possible. That meant no laws, no government, no responsibilities and no consequences. Making sure that any acts of violence were performed humanely, the company made A.I. units who looked, acted and lived like normal human beings but underneath there was software and electronics. After one A.I. unit named Kelly (Ambyr Childers) begins having repeated flashbacks of past events, she flees with Vice security on her tail hoping that Kelly won't reveal to the public a unit became self aware. Also following closely behind is Roy Tadeski (Thomas Jane), a lone cop who's not too fond of Vice for generic reasons pertaining to the attitudes people end up adopting after leaving the facility.
Writing wise, it isn't the absolute worst but it isn't well thought out either. The screenplay tries to tackle a number of social and idealistic issues by borrowing ideas from older films like Westworld (1973), RoboCop (1987) and even The Purge (2013), but much of it is just underdeveloped and underplayed. The actors themselves are okay at best but you would figure, both Thomas Jane and Bruce Willis, who both have enough experience to act would make some kind of an impression. Thomas Jane has a couple of humorous moments in the film but much of it is just him mumbling through a toothpick. Willis is even more disappointing because his role really just feels like a call in. It would actually be more appropriate to say that Ambyr Childers as the rogue unit and Bryan Greenberg, who plays an important character in the plot, are far more interesting to watch than the two veterans previously mentioned. The story itself is not new but it can be tolerated. What isn't tolerated is how it was executed like a standard cat and mouse chase.
Because the majority of characters are quite predictable, there isn't much tension to be found among the scenes that have time constraining ordeals. Another aspect to this movie that isn't exploited properly are the sci-fi elements. Of everything described previously involving A.I. units and software, there is only one scene that looks remotely scientific. This involves rewiring a fuse inside a unit. The rest of the would-be science fiction like A.I. scenes are all done indirectly. An example of this is when Kelly receives an upgrade, which is done off screen. How disappointing - that's really trying to stretch the audiences' gullibility. The other major component that is sorely lacking any exploration is the paradise of Vice itself. The only thing audiences get to see in Vice are acts of murder, drinking and sex. Yeah these are pretty much the kinds of things most people would want to get away with, but with no laws wouldn't there be more to that? Surely someone would be more creative do something crazier than that, of which isn't it kind of the whole point?
Also how does a visitor to Vice know the difference between a human and a unit? There really wasn't any explanation given. The only science fiction like credit that can be given is the set production to the film. At least that looked somewhat apocalyptic in some respects and they didn't look cheap either. The shootouts are alright but nothing inventive. The part that worked against that however was the cinematography shot by Yaron Levy. There were two things Levy kept doing that will probably annoy the viewers. First, there are two many shots with dutch and other cockeyed angles. The second is that when Levy's camera is lateral, the camera keeps doing rotating 360 circumference shots. This is better than shaky camera by far but still frustrating at times. The film score however was better than expected. Composed by a trio of artists who call themselves Hybrid did an okay job. There was no main theme but they did have a number of tracks that worked, especially the ones involving Ambyr Childers and Bryan Greenberg. The thing I can't believe is that the filmmakers actually thought that this movie would get a sequel with an extremely obvious cliffhanger.
Its set production and music display decent quality with okay acting by the main cast but it's more of a time waster than it is worth a watch. The writing is below average, the camera-work is frustrating at best, the action is too standard and the science fiction elements are barely used for a story based on it.