Saturday, May 10, 2008

Vice, Vancouver Premiere Screening - a gritty police drama that tries, but cannot succeed.

Can you say, Direct-to-Video.

I recently caught a screening for a film called Vice, starring Michael Madsen as a corrupt cop, and Daryl Hannah as his partner. It premiered (May 9th) at the Granville 7 Empire Cinema here in Vancouver, drawing only a handful of people which was pretty sad, considering that the LA premiere had over 1000 in the audience, or so we were told. Having been filmed in Vancouver, and featuring many Canadian actors, the filmmakers felt it was important to showcase the movie in Vancouver, which was the only other Canadian city aside from Montreal to premiere it.

I had never heard of the movie before, up until a few hours before the screening after seeing a plug for it on a local entertainment program. Scheduled with the screening was a Q&A with director Raul Sanchez, and producer Mathew Robert Kelly, along with some supporting cast members, all of whom were Canadian. But because the main cast members and funding were of American origin, the movie technically couldn't qualify as a Canadian feature, thus the lack of screenings for Vice in Canada.

From watching the trailer, it looked like an edgy crime drama with some good action so I went ahead to check it out. Getting straight to the point, it's really a shame to see such talented actors in a film that ultimately falls very flat. Michael Madsen and Daryl Hannah along with the other actors give excellent and believable performances within the restrictions of the material, a movie about bad cops, drugs, gangs, and cover ups. The two headlining actors also played producing roles in the film.

Vice doesn't really have the feel of a feature film, rather it plays out like an episode of a cop show made for TV movie. It doesn't have the energy of a theatrical cop drama, coming off very monotone throughout the entire picture, with odd inserts of stylized camera work reminiscent of a hip hop crime movies, like those directed by Andrzej Bartkowiak, to break the monotonous screenplay and limited visual impact. I actually found the movie quite dull, and very slowly paced never really meeting the action or suspense expectations I had in mind. Vice definitely came off as too long for its own good, with sets that felt small like a TV show, it was like an episode of Da Vinci's Inquest, with that distinctive Canadian dullness of episodic television.

During the Q&A, the director mentions that he likes having characters that are in gray areas, but I don't think he was entirely successful in creating the emotional connection that's important for the audience to fully believe in it. There wasn't enough in the movie for me to believe that Salt (Daryl Hannah) was a character who was really affected by the lack of respect she was receiving from her all-male team. I mean she complained about it, and it was suggested in some scenes as she watched from the sidelines the team bonding together in the bar, but it was pretty weak in that respect. Why would she feel this way? Was it something in her past? Also the pain from the death of Walker's (Madsen) wife wasn't really explained. She apparently passed away and it's hurt Walker so much that his life as a top cop has hit rock bottom. We see Walker boozing, and picking up hookers, but its hard to believe he had a wife under all the anger. It's one thing to show all these horrible things, but if the reasons aren't explained, it's hard to believe in them. You can't have gray with just black, you need some white in there too.

Paul Haggis did a great job portraying conflicted cops in the movie Crash, with some very intense scenarios, and that's exactly what this movie is NOT.

Funny, how Uwe Boll was looking for a crime drama, and was interested in the screenplay, but passed it up. I wonder how it would have turned out?

Watch this movie out of curiosity. Who knows you might like it.

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