Bruce Willis has a pretty good track record when it comes to science fiction. 12 Monkeys, The Fifth Element, and Looper have all been great films, but 2009’s Surrogates was instantly forgettable. Vice won’t exactly be a bright spot on Willis’s resume or anyone else’s. Maybe he should stay away from anything robot related. This is direct-to-video dreck that remorselessly rips off Westworld and Blade Runner. There’s a little bit of Total Recall in here too and the filmmakers surely would have cribbed more from Philip K. Dick had they added an extra zero to the budget.
The former Moonlighting star plays Julian Michaels, the impresario behind Vice, an exclusive resort where the high-paying clientele enjoy whatever debauchery they desire. Thanks to the latest advances in robotics and genetic engineering, Vice is staffed by “residents,” life-like androids implanted with false memories, but real emotions. They can bleed and feel pain in order to make the experience more realistic should someone choose to live out their most violent fantasies. That’s where maverick police detective Roy Todesky (Thomas Jane) comes in. Todesky believes that Vice only fans the flames of depravity. The lines between reality and fiction are blurred and visitors of Vice start getting freaky in the real world.
Kelly (Ambyr Childers) is a resident programmed to be a bartender when she’s gunned down by a visitor. While undergoing a routine memory reset, Kelly becomes self-aware as she relives every one of her deaths. After Kelly escapes from the facility, Michaels orders his forces to capture her before everything he’s built begins to unravel.
Vice posits the age-old hypothesis over how violent media (specifically video games) affect someone’s ability to distinguish between reality and fiction. The Vice resort is essentially a live-action version of Grand Theft Auto, an open world game that encourages players to commit all manner of crimes. If you were expecting any sort of intelligent discussion on the subject in Vice, then prepare for disappointment. This film is way more concerned with gunfights and explosions. Besides, the issue was already raised in Neveldine/Taylor’s Gamer. When the guys who made the Crank films do a more subtle job with social commentary, you know you’re in trouble.
The script by Andre Fabrizio and Jeremy Passmore (San Andreas) is bogged down by leaden exposition while consistently taking the least interesting path forward. Despite her male co-stars receiving top billing, Ambyr Childers is actually the protagonist of the picture, except she spends much of the movie as a damsel in distress or the recipient of overlong explanations. When Kelly receives a Matrix-style upgrade and you anticipate she’ll finally jump in on the action, she throws a couple punches and that’s it. Also, if you’re hoping for an ultimate showdown between John McClane and The Punisher, prepare for another disappointment. Willis can barely muster an iota of energy for his role to the point he’s practically narcoleptic. Jane, at least, seems to realize the B-grade material he’s taken part in and hams it up accordingly.
The video is presented in 1080 p with an aspect ratio of 2.40:1. In spite of its low-budget nature, Vice sports a remarkable transfer with cinematography that favors blue hues. Picture quality is sharp with bold colors and natural skin tones.
The audio is presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1. The sound is robust during the action sequences, but the design isn’t as immersive as you might find with other blockbuster releases.
The Blu-ray includes an audio commentary with director Bryan A. Miller, Ambyr Childers, and Bryan Greenberg.
Behind the Scenes of Vice (12:47) is a standard EPK featurette about the concept of the film, the sci-fi genre, and working with Bruce Willis.
Next, there is a series of interviews with members of the cast and crew as they run down the film, their characters, and the working environment. Here, you’ll find: Bryan A. Miller (3:32), Thomas Jane (5:35), Ambyr Childers (3:01), Bryan Greenberg (5:42), Johnathon Schaech (3:50), Andre Fabrizio (5:07), and Jeremy Passmore (5:06).
You’ll also get a theatrical trailer for Vice and trailers for other Lionsgate releases.
Film Value: 3
Vice is the type of film where someone can deliver a line like, “You’re ‘this’ close to losing your badge,” without a hint of irony. It’s a derivative chore and one would be better served watching the movies Vice rips off rather than the movie itself.