The John Wick franchise gives the wrong impression that it’s easy to make a cool, dynamic action film with style to spare. Vanquish attempts to capture that Wick vibe with a plot similar to the Jamie Foxx/Tom Cruise thriller Collateral.
You can’t knock Vanquish for having bad influences. John Wick is the prototype modern action shoot ’em up just like The Matrix inspired a ton of would be blockbusters in the 2000s. Michael Mann’s 2004 stylish and atmospheric assassin thriller was breathtaking and thoughtful.
Vanquish doesn’t manage to stumble across any of those traits. It quickly feels flat and confusing with a clunky narrative and uninspired performances. There’s nothing here that feels fresh, clever or remotely creative.
Well, maybe the sequence when the hero inhales some cocaine to overcome a roofie was unique, but one scene does not make for an exhilarating movie.
Ruby Rose (Batwoman) is Victoria, the caretaker of famed police officer Damon (Morgan Freeman, Coming 2 America). Her daughter is facing some unexplained health crisis that requires a ton of money. Damon offers to front Victoria the money provided she runs errands for him collecting cash from several locations through the city. And for a little insurance, Damon kidnaps Victoria’s daughter.
Naturally all of these locations are fronted by shady underworld figures and Victoria tends to have to rely on her lightning fast gun skills to escape alive. Meanwhile, a group of corrupt cops that partnered with Damon are considering their strategy. This is easily the weakest aspect of Vanquish that gets far too much screen time.
There’s a clock-checking opening sequence that breaks down how Damon was this decorated hero cop until he got shot and paralyzed. Director/co-screenwriter George Gallo and co-screenwriter Samuel Bartlett spend a lot of time explaining that at some point Damon became a corrupt cop, but fail to ever provide a motive or what led to his breaking point.
Rose is one of those actors that just seems like she should be a major action star. She has a presence, but that rarely translates to the future of action movies as she frequently comes across stiff and focusing on acting too hard. Maybe it’s just a matter of finding the right role, but the window seems to be closing.
Maybe it seemed like a good idea on paper, but Rose doesn’t fare well in scenes when she’s working with Freeman. Victoria seems like the kind of character who’s managed to check their lethal skills just below the surface yet at any moment she could unleash mayhem and massive carnage.
Rose often seems unsure of how Victoria is supposed to react in these confrontations with Freeman. Collateral might not have been so effective if Foxx wasn’t operating at an Oscar-award winning level and faded in scenes with Cruise.
As weak and underdeveloped the material is, Freeman manages to rise above it. He’s the kind of performer that can take preposterous dialogue and make it work. He’s got plenty of opportunities here.
The script fails to offer any meaning context for the extent of Damon’s betrayal and it falls on Rose to convey how hurt she is that her friend would force her to be his hitman.
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Gallo seems to think a standard shoot ’em up needs some bizarre stylistic choices like the shot of Damon’s goons reflected in a rat’s eye. He’s also overly found of flashback scenes even if that scene just occurred a few minutes ago. It’s probably better to just call them instant replays instead of flashbacks.
And of course, Gallo goes into the bag of bad action movie tropes with quick edits, needless closeups to distracting cutaways, Gallo is too busy disorienting viewers instead of allowing them to get lost in the moment.
The action scenes lack polish and the kind of detail audiences will notice like missing bullet holes when people get shot. Victoria’s vehicle of choice is a motorcycle yet somehow these scenes lack any sense of speed or danger as it’s normally just Victoria and a gangster gunning for her on the road.
Vanquish is the kind of unmemorable action flick that it would have been better off ditching the q and u from its title and fading quickly from memory.
Rating: 2 out of 10
Photo Credit: Lionsgate