Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

It was with a mix of trepidation and excitement that I slipped the disc for the movie ‘Vice’ into the DVD player. If I were to choose to watch any kind of movie, it would be the hard boiled tough crime drama, and ‘Vice’ seemed to fit the bill. Though this was a Straight to DVD offering, but I have seen more than my share of pretty damn good Straight to DVD flicks so this wasn’t one of my concerns, but this particular film did star the ubiquitous Michael Madsen. Nothing but mad love for Mr. Madsen but the last few movies the brother has made, that I have seen, which include ‘The Last Hour’, ‘UKM’, and ‘Machine’ just to name a few were all so godawfully poor that I seriously thought about putting my DVD player away for retirement. But this movie ‘Vice’ seemed as if it may be a cut above as it had a nice cast of actors and interesting story line and after watching it, I have to say that except for a few hiccups and missteps here and there, ‘Vice’ largely delivers.

One of the early sights we get see of Max Walker (Madsen) is of him procuring the services of a prostitute. She asks him if he’s a cop which he of course denies. Actually he is a cop but he just wants whatever services 25 bucks will get him. You see Max is a total mess of a human being as he is one drunk, prostitute procuring, witness abusing son of a bitch and apparently he’s been this way since his wife died some years back. Nonetheless he still seems to be a halfway functional cop as we witness a sting operation that he and his partner Samson (Mykelti Williamson) are in the process of executing. Unfortunately, as tends to happen in these movie stings, everything goes to hell which results in Sampson getting himself shot, a bunch of thugs ending up dead, another thug getting away and Walker offing an unarmed floozy. Here is where things begin to spiral out of control as Walker has another officer on the scene, Salt (Darryl Hannah) – these are tough people so almost none of them have first names – plant a gun on the woman to attempt to trick the powers that be that this was justifiable shoot.

Though the bust had some problems at least Walker and the rest of his task force which include Bugsby (Mark Boone Junior), Travalino (John Cassini), Chambers (Aaron Pearl) and Zelco (Matthew Robert Kelly) secured the sixty kilo’s of contraband. Oooops! Did I say sixty? Because apparently there should’ve been a hundred kilos and now we have a group of really angry Black dudes picking off cops one by one looking for their additional 40 kilos of junk which should have been in the bust. Now each member of the task force suspects the other members might have stolen the drugs and perhaps that one of them is a rogue cop and is the one killing their colleagues To further complicate matters, all are being watched very closely by their much reviled office boss Jenkins (Nicholas Lea) who very easily could be the murdering thief as well. If death by bullet to the head was a disease, in this movie ‘Vice’, there would be an epidemic.

Directed by Raul Inglis, ‘Vice’ isn’t the most pleasant movie around, that’s for sure. The look of the film is gritty, dark and depressing. None of the characters are remotely likable as they throw around profanities and racial epithets like Frisbees, in addition to their overall sour personalities. If Inglis were attempting to create a world where it looks like nothing of any worth can grow, he has succeeded fabulously. The best thing that ‘Vice’ had going for it was the authenticity of the dialog and the realism in which the actors were able to deliver this dialog. At least for the most part. When a character says the line ‘I don’t know who you are anymore’, that’s a line that we could probably do without in any movie ever again, but these were some tough authentically created characters delivering some realistic harsh words.

Though I didn’t care too much for his narration, Michael Madsen reminds us that when he feels up to it, he can be one of the most dynamic actors working today as his character of Walker was a multi-layered ball of total confusion. The scenes with the character of Walker and his mother played quite ably by Betty Linde were particularly effective in adding depth to Madsen’s character. Not only with Ms. Linde, but the best scenes were when Madsen had to play off his co-stars who were also very effective considering the fine work turned in by Nicholas Lea and Mykelti Williamson. And though Madsen didn’t get to have much interaction with Mark Boone Junior, that cat has got to be one of the most underrated actors around because he stands out in practically everything I see him in. I’m still trying to figure out Darryl Hannah’s character who seemed far to wimpy, whiny and skittish to be a member of this squad of violent racist cops, even the Black cop was prejudiced, and her characters definition doesn’t become any clearer as the movie comes to it’s conclusion.

And it is this conclusion that is probably the biggest failing of ‘Vice’ as the movie descends from it’s reality grounded roots to a series of unlikely events ending in a cavalcade of even more unlikely shootouts. I know these movies have to resolve themselves someway, it just felt to me there was a disconnect between how the movie was progressing to how it eventually ended. Whaddayagonnado?

The conclusion aside ‘Vice’ was and interesting film that is deliberately paced, maybe too deliberately for some of you out there, but it does has a decent albeit well worn narrative to tell. It certainly held my interest for the duration and was clever enough not to tip its hand until near the very end.

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