PLOT: Entrepreneur Julian Michaels (Bruce Willis) owns an urban resort called “Vice” where guests are work out their worst urges on the human-like android inhabitants, none of whom realize they aren’t human, and have their memories wiped every time they’re killed. However, one android, K.E.L.L.Y (Ambyr Childers) becomes self-aware and teams up with a Vice-hating cop (Thomas Jane) to take the resort down once and for all.
REVIEW: It’s crazy that low-budget action movies which would have likely starred people like Jeff Wincott or Lorenzo Lamas in the heyday of video are now attracting full-on movie stars. Mostly produced by Emmett-Furla (who’ve occasional dabbled in legit movies like LONE SURVIVOR) one assumes that these are made mostly for the foreign market or VOD, where the presence of a Bruce Willis and Thomas Jane wielding a gun on the poster might have you think you’re watching a full-on star vehicle for the two.
Rather, VICE is familiar territory for Willis, who likely shows up on set for a day or two, collects a pretty penny, and moves on. His role in VICE is no different than his parts in THE PRINCE, FIRE WITH FIRE, or the rest of the crap he’s reduced himself to appearing in nowadays. Despite his billing, Willis is barely in VICE and I’d be shocked if he worked on the movie for more than a day, with his presence constricted to one or two sets. Willis plays the marginal bad guy, who sends his henchmen out (including DTV mainstay Johnathon Schaech) to catch our heroine, played by the young and pretty Ambyr Childers.
The premise itself isn’t so bad, even if it’s awfully familiar to anyone who’s seen WESTWORLD. The catch here is that the resort (which feels like it could never exist in the real world) attracts psychopaths en masse, and it’s easy to sympathize with Childers, who realizes she’s literally been used as a plaything for psychos here entire life. This could have resulted in a cool little revenge flick, but alas the budget doesn’t seem to allow that so all we get are a few really low-rent action scenes and a lot of boring exposition.
As per his custom, Willis sleepwalks through his part (did her ever do more than a take or two?) and is clearly just there for a paycheck. The best thing about the movie is Thomas Jane, but sadly rather than playing a full-lead (as expected by the billing) he only shows up now and then. Other than Childers’ android, he’s the most interesting guy in the film, being a cop he despises a resort that allows perverts and sadists to act out their worst urges. Sadly, his time on the set also seems to have been limited, although unlike Willis he actually seems to be trying to engage with the material. With a bigger budget and Jane as a second lead VICE might have had real potential (when is someone going to give Jane a shot on a real, quality action flick?).
Instead, much of the screen time goes to Bryan Greenberg as a character with murky motivations who serves to give out most of the exposition before being abruptly dispatched once Jane comes back into the picture (the last fifteen minutes). With a solid re-write giving Jane a bigger part and a much larger budget VICE could have been something. Rather, it’s a totally disposable actioner not all that different from the other half-dozen bargain basement action movies guys like Willis or John Cusack have shown up in the last couple of years. Viewers are probably better off waiting for the new WESTWORLD HBO series, which will likely tackle a lot of the same ground but much more successfully.