Vanquish has an opening credits sequence that runs six full minutes. In retrospect, that was the first sign that the movie was going to attempt to pad out its very thin story to feature length. This is one of those films that fools you. You see big names like Morgan Freeman and Ruby Rose on the poster. You see that it was written and directed by George Gallo, the guy who wrote Midnight Run, one of the most perfect buddy action-comedies ever made. Then you watch the final result and realize it was a paycheck job for everyone involved, and that no one really cared too much about what they were doing.
Freeman phones in his performance as Damon, a wheelchair-bound former cop. He has a series of shady packages that need picked up. Fortunately, his caretaker Victoria (Rose) is a former Russian drug courier trying to keep her life on the straight and narrow. Damon kidnaps her daughter and forces Victoria to make the pickups for him. One wonders why he would choose to betray someone who, by his own admission, has provided him with such great care, but that's a logical question the film has no time for.
The rest of Vanquish is a repetitive loop where Victoria rides her motorcycle to a dangerous location, gets chased or harassed by bad guys, and then makes a daring escape. (Side note: One of the baddies is played by Nick Vallelonga, the Oscar-winning producer of Green Book, which is based on the life of his father.) When that's all done, we get the requisite final confrontation with Damon. None of this is even remotely exciting.
Gallo makes a series of bizarre choices with the film. Rather than focusing on the action, he spends more time on shots of Victoria racing her bike through the city streets. While she's doing all that riding, Vanquish offers flashbacks to conversations that literally occurred two minutes before. It's as though the movie thinks we all have short-term memory loss and won't remember what just happened. Once she reaches her various destinations, the dangerous situations she finds herself in are glossed over, so they don't generate any suspense.
Additionally annoying is Gallo's insistence on constantly dissolving between one shot and the next. This isn't only done when transitioning from scene to scene, it also takes place within conversations between characters. That may seem like a minor complaint, except that the constant use of the effect draws attention to itself, distracting from whatever it is we're supposed to care about onscreen. At times, I couldn't even focus on what people were saying because I kept noticing the dissolves.
Ruby Rose does what she can with the material. Morgan Freeman, on the other hand, falls back on his trademark mannerisms, including over-enunciating everything with his commanding voice, never bothering to turn Damon into an actual character. He's merely playing his own persona here. It's a great persona, yet the lack of additional effort is disappointing, and another way in which Vanquish is one of the laziest, most unsatisfying action pictures of recent years.
Release information: Vanquish will be available in select theaters on April 16th and on Apple TV, and everywhere you rent movies on April 20th, then available on Blu-ray and DVD on April 27th.
out of four
Vanquish is rated R for bloody violence, language, some sexual material and drug use. The running time is 1 hour and 36 minutes.