Sometimes nothing quite hits the spot like a bleak futuristic movie. Combining elements of Westworld (1973) and Blade Runner (1982) and updating these themes with apprehensions of twenty-first century cultural rot and a rising police state, Vice is a worthy entry in the dystopian thriller genre. Appropriately, generic actress Ambyr Childers stars as a synthetic human plaything at Vice, an indoor resort complex for perverts and sadists. Thomas Jane is cool as the dedicated but tired cop who attempts to find Childers after she escapes into the outside world, and Bruce Willis oozes the sleaze of authority as Vice’s untouchable proprietor. Fast-paced and relevant, Vice is solid. Those hoping for outrageous depictions of high-tech debauchery, however, will be disappointed, as most of the sex is merely teased.
4 out of 5 stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Vice is:
5. Arguably Christian. A church provides at least momentary refuge. One line of dialogue suggests that those wrapped up in illusions avoid such places. Christians are falsely blamed as likely terrorist suspects.
4. Misandrist. Vice, unfortunately, is full of today’s hysteria about a ridiculous “rape culture”. The film depicts a nightmare America not unlike that from the Purge franchise, in which white males would delight in nothing more than to pay for the privilege of beating up, raping, and murdering women.
3. Anti-state and anti-corporate. Vice reflects the darkening reality of a world governed by a sexually permissive but totalitarian state guided by materialistic corporate interests. Elements of the police are in Willis’s pocket and work to cover up his crimes. The Vice resort fronts for defense sector research, the “artificials” being tested for military applications. The film can also be read as a skewering of the official 9/11 story.
2. Luddite. Technology threatens human liberty. Characters hope to escape to the “tech-free zone” of St. Helena.
1. Pro-censorship. Surprisingly for a Hollywood movie, Vice contains a thinly veiled argument for censorship. Describing the pleasure palace in words that might just as easily refer to the multiplex and its desensitizing effect on viewers, Thomas Jane’s cop holds forth as follows:
You know, people go in there and they get their freak on and they do whatever they do, and then they keep goin’ in there, and then they keep goin’ in there, and then they bring that shit out in the real world, it feels normal to them. [. . .] I used to be a cop. I’m not a cop anymore. I’m a fuckin’ garbage collector since that fuckin’ place opened up. It needs to be shut down.
Later, in a confrontation with villain Willis, he adds:
This is the only place I know that any scumbag in the world can get into paradise [. . .] You would think that if you created a place where people could come and they could commit any crime they could think of, just any fucked-up thing that comes into their head, they could get it out of their system and they’d become better citizens, you know. But you know it turns out, the exact opposite is true. These people get a taste and they just can’t get enough.