The Movie Waffler New Release Review - VICE | The Movie Waffler

New Release Review - VICE

vice movie review
Caustic biopic of former US Vice President Dick Cheney.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Adam McKay

Starring: Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Steve Carell, Sam Rockwell, Jesse Plemons, Shea Whigham, Alison Pill

vice poster

One of the positive side effects of Donald Trump's presidency is that people who previously had no interest in politics have all of a sudden become possessed with a spirit of activism. One of the negative side effects of Donald Trump's presidency is that people who previously had no interest in politics have all of a sudden become possessed with a spirit of activism. Having made his name with a series of lowbrow comedies - Anchorman; Step Brothers; The Other Guys - writer/director Adam McKay now attempts to reinvent himself as the successor to Oliver Stone with Vice, a caustic biopic of former Vice President Dick Cheney (Christian Bale, after a year of eating all the pies).

vice movie review

McKay opens his film with some text that outlines how little of Cheney's life is in the public domain and as a result how difficult it is to tell his story. "But we tried our fucking best," McKay declares. Except he really didn't. McKay displays little evidence of having any interest in telling the story of Cheney and his puppet-master machinations; rather he wants to make fun of an easily mockable figure in the cheapest way possible.

When we meet Cheney first he's an aimless young man. A voiceover - from Jesse Plemons as a character whose identity will be revealed later in particularly tasteless fashion - tells us Cheney is a "ne'er do-well," but the film never shows us why it's made this assessment of the young Dick. Vice continues in this fashion, constantly telling us Cheney is an evil mastermind while rarely presenting us with any visual evidence to back up such claims.

vice movie review

As portrayed by McKay, Cheney isn't so much Machiavellian as motiveless. At one point he asks Donald Rumsfeld (a miscast Steve Carell) "what do we believe in?" Rumsfeld's response is simply to laugh off the question. For McKay, it's enough to merely imply that these people are evil, rather than exploring their motives. Vice is as disinterested in a nuanced portrayal of Republicans as the average Christian propaganda movie is in giving depth to its atheist college professor and Muslim fundamentalist villains.

A series of snarky, comic set-pieces involving actors impersonating political figures, Vice often feels like Saturday Night Live The Motion Picture, and it's even less amusing than that past its sell by date TV institution, which McKay once served on as head writer. Information is dispensed through half-baked comic sketches, none more cringe-inducing than a sequence involving Alfred Molina as a waiter of a restaurant whose menu consists of dubious political options. Bale does his best to nail Cheney's mannerisms, but the script's cartoon characterisation does him no favours. Likewise Amy Adams as Cheney's wife Lynne, portrayed - of course - as a Lady Macbeth figure.

vice movie review

McKay clearly made this movie for a liberal audience, but unless you spent the past two decades living in a cave, you're not going to learn anything new about Cheney and the Bush administration. Shouldn't this movie have come out a decade ago? Oh wait, it did. It was directed by Oliver Stone and called W.

I went into McKay's film with a low opinion of Cheney and his cohorts, and while Vice didn't change my mind regarding its conservative villains, it did make me question the motives of its liberal filmmakers.

Vice is in UK/ROI cinemas January 25th.

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