If one were to describe "Vice" as "A.I.: Artificial Intelligence
" meets "Westworld," it wouldn't exactly be an inaccurate comparison, but it would be giving too much credit to a film that tackles its provocative premise in the most lazy, run-of-the-mill fashion imaginable. At the sleek, upscale Vice resort, clients are given the chance to live out their every urge and fantasy. Detective Roy Tedeschi's (Thomas Jane) investigation into this crooked utopian paradise (that, weirdly enough, is jammed right in the middle of a scuzzy downtown area) coincides with Vice bartender Kelly's (Ambyr Childers) discovery that she is an "artificial," programmed to repeat the same day on a continuous loop without ever realizing she isn't human. Inundated by memories she shouldn't be having, Kelly goes on the run, teaming up with her creator, Evan (Bryan Greenberg), and later Tedeschi to take down the corrupt retreat.
Judging by all of the nondescript streets and synthetically decorated warehouses where the vast majority of scenes take place, "Vice" spent the bulk of its budget on its lead actors and had precious little left over for anything else. Low-rent and wasteful of some intriguing ideas, the film doesn't bother to explore the moral implications of its perverse anything-goes resort or Kelly's newfound knowledge that she is a robot. Instead, director Brian A. Miller (2014's "The Outsider
") and screenwriters Andre Fabrizio and Jeremy Passmore (2012's "Red Dawn
") switch to autopilot following an involving first act where Kelly's dreams for the future are ripped out from under her. What follows is an increasingly tedious chase movie full of shootouts and not much else, performed by actors who should know better. As Detective Tedeschi, Thomas Jane (2014's "White Bird in a Blizzard
") is established as a would-be badass in the way that he endlessly walks around using a match as a toothpick. His stringy, greasy wig is a fright, reminding of wet dog hair. As smarmy Vice CEO Julian Michaels, Bruce Willis (2013's "Red 2
") continues to prove that he no longer has any career ambitions outside of earning a paycheck. The saving grace of "Vice" is the striking Ambyr Childers (2012's "The Master
"), who is so instantly warm and likable as Kelly that she manages to carry the movie when everything else around her has become throwaway hooey.