The once-bankable Bruce Willis does his fading-star status no favours in this cheap, predictable sci-fi thriller too tawdry and pointless to deserve even the most desultory of theatrical releases. It’s not hard to see why; there’s some flash and glitz in the production design, a few routine gunfights and stunts but nothing that really couldn’t be achieved in an episode of a well-budgeted TV series. In fact, Vice bears a passing resemblance to 2012’s short-lived futuristic buddy copy series Almost Human (but with much more tiresome swearing) as well as borrowing themes and ideas from the likes of AI, Blade Runner and even Michael Crichton’s Westworld. Abandon all hope ye who enter the world of Vice looking for something original…
So, if you’re interested, here’s what’s in store. Set somewhere in the future (presumably) in some bland, nameless city, Julian Michaels (Bruce!!) is the CEO of a district subtly-named ‘Vice’ whose customers, with the help of the resort’s phalanx of reprogrammable synthetic cloned robot-things (the film’s as vague about them as we are), can indulge themselves in any fantasy and commit any crime or misdemeanour without fear of reprisal or repercussion. So far, so Purge. But Kelly (Childs), one of the synthetics, starts to become self-aware and realises her/its purposes - and she’s not too happy about it. She goes on the run, hotly pursued with Bruce’s hopeless and hapless gun-totin’ henchmen who are determined to bring her in before she can spread the word to the rest of the synthetic population. Meanwhile grizzled cop Roy (Thomas Jane…ah, The Mist seems so long ago now) is determined to shut down the corrupt city and he seizes on the opportunity presented by Kelly’s awakening to work his way deep into the heart of Vice’s nerve centre.
Nothing we’ve not seen before then and whilst it’s no crime to reheat old ideas it’d be nice if Vice (it rhymes!) had the wit to bring something new to the table instead of contenting itself with trotting out old clichés and visual motifs as if it was reinventing the sci-fi cinema wheel. For all its bluster there’s precious little energy here and even the action sequences are largely lifeless and perfunctory. Bruce doesn’t just phone in his performance, he leaves it on an answering machine and, with all his scenes set in pretty much one room, it looks as if he wandered in on a spare weekend to knock off his bits before ambling home to bank the cheque.
We’ve seen far worse straight-to-DVD sci-fi movies, obviously, but few starring a once-mighty A-Lister so clearly in it for the money. Vice won’t necessarily offend your sensibilities but you’ll certainly feel you’ve wasted a good and irrecoverable ninety minutes of your life. Take our ad-vice and give this one a miss.
INFO: VICE / CERT: 18 / DIRECTOR: BRIAN A MILLER / SCREENPLAY: ANDRE FABRIZIO, JEREMY PASSMORE / STARRING: THOMAS JANE, BRUCE WILLIS, AMBYR CHILDERS, BRYAN GREENBERG / RELEASE DATE: JUNE 8TH