A Sci-Fi Honey Rage Review by Katie

Vice (2015)

As Sci-Fi Honey 2.0, I’ve had the great privilege of being able to review the first phenomenal, four-star film of 2015: the Spierig Brothers’ Predestination. The year started off for me on a high, which is rare considering most films released in the early months of the year are merely backwash in the giant cauldron of the studio system – films with no promotional support whatsoever that often disappear into obscurity shortly after their debut. This tradition of the film biz is no exception in 2015, for the time has come for me to review the first worst film of the year so far: the bloated, uninspired, and criminally boring sci-fi thriller Vice. As a reviewer, I understand that keeping up with new releases means I will be experiencing the bad as well as the good, and it is my duty to subject myself to films like this if for no other reason than to warn the moviegoing public: stay away from this insult to sci-fi action cinema.

Vice opens with a bank robbery loaded with stock action movie clichés: two criminals stand on tables and shout at bank tellers about dye packs and unmarked bills, while one threatens to shoot a hostage when the cops show up. The scene ends with a (predictable) shootout with the law, and it is here that the film pauses so our “star” can give his first monologue: it’s actually a presentation being given by Bruce Willis on the merits of his futuristic fantasy resort called “Vice.” At this resort, guests can act out their wildest desires (including violent and sexually deviant crimes) perpetrated on a community of artificially intelligent robots who look and act human, but are not self-aware. This explains why the opening scene is exaggeratedly cliché: the “criminals” – ordinary guys who paid money to pretend to be bank robbers for a day – are parroting dialogue from countless generic action movies they’ve watched. The problem is that the rest of Vice is so riddled with its own contrived sci-fi/action formulas, what follows is barely distinguishable from this intentionally artificial opening scene.

“Do ya feel lucky? Well, do ya, robot?”

The meat of the “story” (if you can call it that) is centered around a particular android, Kelly (Ambyr Childers), who through some fluke has suddenly become self-aware and can remember all the horrors inflicted on her by human guests of the Vice resort. She escapes and is soon being pursued by Roy – a rogue cop played by Thomas Jane, in a barely recognizable and laughably prosaic role. Roy is shaggy-haired, cocky, and equipped with groan-inducing one-liners (“not bad… for a robot”) uttered while chewing on a matchstick – y’know, the way these badass cops do. A couple of scientists give Android Kelly the Keanu “I Know Kung Fu” Upgrade and the remaining runtime is filler consisting of half-cocked action setpieces and yawn-inducing shootouts. The film eventually stumbles toward an awkward excuse for a shock ending that serves no purpose other than to tease a sequel out of what should remain a one-off exercise in generic filmmaking.

They also gave her the ‘bodacious babe’ upgrade.

But the real crime here is seeing a past-his-prime action star stooping to the level this film requires in order to collect a buck. Bruce Willis is one of those actors “of a certain age” that can still draw an audience, and if he’s given the right opportunity to showcase his talent – even as recently as Rian Johnson’s Looper (2012) – he can still knock it out of the park. But he’s also an action star from a bygone era when machismo attitudes reigned, and he occasionally tries to remain relevant by making appearances in the kind of lowbrow bargain-bin drivel that has filled at least half his resume over the last ten years. Willis could barely muster enough enthusiasm for his role in Vice to deliver a performance beyond the single day of work necessary to collect his paycheck. Sadly, I fear he’s become the “Rent-a-Cop” equivalent of action movie stars.

Am I done here? Can I go now?”
Forty-two years ago, a film came out that was written and directed by acclaimed American novelist Michael Crichton: it was called Westworld, and it centered on a futuristic theme park where guests could carry out their wanton fantasies through the use of robots. Even with decades-old technology, Westworld remains a visionary piece of sci-fi cinema, and one that Vice clearly owes a debt of gratitude for inspiration (occasionally bordering on outright plagiarism). Westworld is being remade into an HBO series that will be released later this year, and I am hoping it will improve upon a modernization of this storyline that Vice unsuccessfully attempted. Don’t bother checking into Vice at all; if you do, your brain will check out soon after.

Sci-Fi Honey Rating: Zero Rent-A-Willis Action Stars out of five.

If you still want to watch 'Vice' it's available via:
iTunes, Amazon Instant Video, Google Play, and VOD