Vanquish looks like it was funded with somebody’s allowance money. And if that were the case, if a bunch of plucky ragamuffins actually cobbled their lunch money to make this movie, I’d slap two more stars on this review. Alas, nope. This cheap, piddling disaster was green-lit by grownups who should’ve known better. To borrow a quote from the beloved Roger Ebert: “I hated it, hated it, hated it.” Stick with me for a bit, dear readers, and we’ll count the ways together.
The movie gets itself deep in debt before the opening credits are even over. It’s here that the filmmakers opt for the lazy storytelling gimmick of dumping gobs of exposition onto the audience before they can even settle into their seats. For ten excruciating minutes, the credits intersperse with bad CGI graphics of newspaper headlines, which relay an entire movie’s worth of information on the character played by Morgan Freeman. Seriously, if you gave me the choice of reading this crap or filling out a crossword puzzle, I know what I would pick: What’s a 10-letter word for “blimp disaster?” H-ND-NB–G…?
Anyway, if you think that sounds rough, that’s just the novocaine to numb you up before the actual root canal. Vanquish takes place over one long, lonely night in the life of Vicki (Ruby Rose). She’s a reformed drug courier who now serves as caretaker to Damon (Morgan Freeman). He’s a retired cop who’s earned the sobriquet of “America’s Police Commissioner”–whatever in the honey-baked hell that means.
Well, it turns out that Damon is–dun DUN DUNNNNNN—a dirty cop! Mes petit chatons! He has to collect money from his scumbag associates tonight, but he can’t risk doing it himself. So, Damon asks Vicki to do his dirty work. When she refuses, he holds her daughter hostage until all the cash is his. Now, Vicki must return to a life of crime and run these deadly errands, or else risk losing everything she cares about.
What follows is a long, boring second act in which the same scenario plays out over and over: Vicki calls on a series of sweaty, marble-mouthed scuzzbuckets. One of them will invariably recognize her from the old days. Chaos ensues. Bullets fly. Yawn. Repeat.
Okay, let’s dissect this dead horse, shall we? You know any movie is in a heap-load of trouble when it does anything to remind you of Battlefield Earth. For anybody lucky enough to forget, let me give you the Reader’s Digest summary: That was John Travolta’s piss-poor paean to Scientology, in which gibbering cavemen battle butthead-looking aliens for what’s left of Earth. The acting, the writing, and the directing were all-time bad, but what a lot of people remember most is the film’s hideous color palate. The whole movie was tinted with–what shall we call it…the color of foamy piss-water? It actually paired really well with the story.
Vanquish riffs on that sense of extreme ugliness. Many of its scenes are lit with a strange hyper-green glow. It’s as if a giant asteroid of frozen Mountain Dew is about to crash into Earth, and that ominous color lights up the sky for humanity’s last chance to Do the Dew™. This script could’ve been The Bridge on the River Kwai, but as long as everything looks like it was filmed in Yodavision, nothing about it ever stood a chance.
And that’s not to absolve the performances. Freeman, one of the most acclaimed actors in history, plays Damon as though his second Ambien is just now kicking in. It’s truly dispiriting to see someone so talented act so hopelessly bored. Rose has also done fine work before, but I spent most of this movie trying to pin down her accent. Is she going for American? Australian? Or…none of the above? She seems like she wants to be here more than Freeman, but that’s not saying much.
Vanquish is an incoherent shambles of a movie–a low point for most of the people involved in its production. It’s destined to settle to the bottom of a drugstore’s DVD bin, for as long as people still watch DVDs, anyway. Parts of it are bad enough for a light chuckle, but most everything else is just loud and pitiful. To any rascally kids who want to pool their money and fund their very own movie, I would offer this genuine advice: Get a dirt bike instead.
96 minutes. R.