[Screen It]


(2021) (Morgan Freeman, Ruby Rose) (R)

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Drama/Action: A woman returns to her violent criminal ways to get her kidnapped daughter back.

Damon Hickey (MORGAN FREEMAN) is a former highly decorated cop, narcotics detective, and police commissioner whose career ended with him being left in a wheelchair following a retaliatory shooting. Since then, he's gone over to the bad side and is the mastermind behind various criminal endeavors that also include a small group of bad cops led by Detective Kehoe (CHRIS MULLINAX).

Damon does have a softer side that shows when he interacts with his caretaker, Victoria (RUBY ROSE), and that woman's young and sickly daughter, Lily. Accordingly, he offers to pay for the girl's medical expenses if Victoria returns to the ways of her past life, something she wants no part of now that she's a mother. So, Damon kidnaps Lily and promises to return her only after Victoria makes five stops to pick up money owed to him by other criminal types. Mad, but realizing she has no choice, Victoria agrees and leaves a wake of bodies along her path to be reunited with her daughter.

OUR TAKE: 2 out of 10

Creative types will sometimes include so-called Easter Eggs in their works for fans to find. Named after the need to hunt for them, sometimes those are references to their other works or those of others, inside jokes or other brief bits that most consumers of such products won't likely notice, especially on the first pass when one's attention is usually focused somewhere else.

Filmmakers of recent have become enamored with placing those into their movies and the latest example of that occurs quite early in "Vanquish." As the opening credits roll by and we're shown various brief bits of exposition about one of the main characters (played by Morgan Freeman), one bit of those is a faux newspaper front page that talks about his cop character's heralded past.

But below the fold is the story headline "Director George Gallo and his film The Comeback Trail nominated for 15 Academy Awards." I didn't see it the first time (as I was trying to read the top headline and related text) and only caught it upon going back to find the character's last name.

The joke, of course, is that Gallo is also the director of this film, but if the quality of that upcoming release is anywhere near that of this one, that Nostradamus bit is going to be a bust. A big bust. Like a Dolly Parton bust. And that's because this movie is the equivalent of a fiasco that's ended up mangled in a train wreck. Bad in so many ways that I eventually lost track, it's easily going to get nominations -- for next year's Razzie Awards "honoring" the worst that cinema has to offer.

Aside from a few dribs and drabs scattered throughout the 96 or so minute film, those opening credits give us the most information about any of the characters, leaving the rest operating in a cinematic void where the viewer is never allowed to be engaged in the people or the plot.

For some never-explored reason, Morgan's highly decorated cop turned narcotics detective turned police commissioner has gone over to the dark side sometime in the past. He now operates a multi-faceted criminal enterprise that includes a bunch of bad cops (in a subplot where they realize they're about to be outed but that goes nowhere and does zero for the overall storyline written by Gallo and co-scribe Samuel Bartlett) as well as a priest who's sitting on the wrong side of the confessional.

That switch has led to his lavish lifestyle in a large coastal home, complete with a caretaker, Victoria (Ruby Rose), who cooks for him and helps around the house, what with him being wheelchair-bound thanks to a retributory bullet in the past. Her young daughter is afflicted with some never-identified issue (at most the girl says she's tired) that apparently includes hefty medical bills.

So, Damon offers to pay for those if Victoria agrees to revert to her old criminal ways and execute five financial pick-ups for him. She refuses, so he then kidnaps her daughter as "inspiration," and she angrily goes about doing those jobs, resulting in an increasing pile of criminal bodies in her wake.

Gallo and company drip tiny bits of occasional info about her past, but it's not enough to make us care about her or anyone else. It also doesn't help that the direction is awful, as is the choppy editing, resulting in flat action sequences.

The performances all seem phoned in for the paycheck (why else would Freeman chose to appear in this mess), there are some flashbacks to material we've seen just moments before (I guess all involved realize viewers will already be tuning out and will need to be reminded of what they just saw), and the "twist" at the end is about as predictable as they come.

About the only thing that "Vanquish" manages to do well is thoroughly defeat your will to keep watching until the end. And you won't need to find any Easter egg to discover that. The film rates as a 2 out of 10.

Reviewed April 13, 2021 / Posted April 16, 2021

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