'Vice': Film Review

Sam Emerson
Wait for the upcoming HBO reboot of 'Westworld' instead

Bruce Willis plays the head of a futuristic resort staffed with "artificials" in this sci-fi thriller.

Bruce Willis continues his unfortunate descent into career slumming with Brian A. Miller's sci-fi thriller about a resort staffed by humanoid robots who can be readily reprogrammed after the guests have had their murderous ways with them. A low-budget mashup of Westworld and Blade Runner, Vice is the sort of cheaply made, derivative effort seemingly destined for the bottom shelves of video stores — if they still existed. Receiving a token theatrical release, the film should attract some VOD customers willing to shell out for the marquee name.

The titular resort set in an unspecified city — the film was shot in Mobile, Ala., of all places — lives up to its name by indulging its customers' apparently limitless desire for murderous mayhem. The lucrative operation, headed by the dark-suited Julian (Willis), is thrown into disarray when one of its "artificials," the beautiful Kelly (Ambyr Childers) becomes aware of her programmed existence and escapes.

Cue the ensuing violent mayhem as Julian dispatches his hordes of automatic weapon-toting henchmen to find the rebellious robot before word of her departure leaks out, not caring about the "collateral damage" inflicted along the way. Also hot on her trail is Roy (Thomas Jane), a seedy detective hell-bent on bringing down the organization.

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Helping Kelly evade detection is the engineer (Bryan Greenberg) who designed her as an exact replica of his late wife — one of the film's wan attempts to add emotional resonance to the proceedings.

Jane's character is a walking cliché, the sort of stock B-movie cop coiffed and dressed as if he's still recovering from a weekslong bender and who is at endless odds with his glowering superior. Perpetually clamping a matchstick between his tightly gritted teeth, the actor delivers lines like "It's not every day one gets to meet his maker" with a gravelly intensity suggesting he's watched too many Dirty Harry movies.

But at least he seems to be making an effort, which is more than can be said of the sleepwalking Willis, whose brief screen time set in a single location suggests that he showed up to work for a few days in between tropical vacations.

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Largely devoid of the sort of satirical commentary that might have elevated the material, the screenplay by Andre Fabrizio and Jeremy Passmore (soon to be represented by the would-be summer blockbuster San Andreas, starring Dwayne Johnson) is strictly by-the-numbers, with loud, perfunctorily staged gun battles occurring every few minutes in a failed attempt to rouse viewers from their stupor. The film credits no less than 15 executive producers, who should at least enjoy a decent tax write-off.

Production: Emmett Furla Oasis Films
Cast: Thomas Jane, Bruce Willis, Ambyr Childers, Jonathon Schaech, Bryan Greenberg, Charlotte Kirk, Tyler J. Olson
Director: Brian A. Miller
Screenwriters: Andre Fabrizio, Jeremy Passmore
Producers: Randall Emmett, George Furla, Adam Goldworm
Executive producers: Oliver Simon, Daniel Baur, Barry Brooker, Stan Wertlieb, Wayne Marc Godfrey, Robert Jones, Mark Stewart, Anthony Jabre, Steven Saxton, Elisa Salinas, Steven Galanis, Vance Own, Brett Granstaff, Ted Fox, Corey Large
Director of photography: Yaron Levy
Production designer: Nate Jones
Editor: Paul Harb
Costume designer: Bonnie Stauch
Composer: Hybrid
Casting: Anne McCarthy, Kellie Roy

Rated R, 96 minutes

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