Vanquish: Slowed Down Shoot ‘Em Up, by David Bax
Nearly six and a half minutes have passed in George Gallo’s Vanquish before the movie has actually begun in earnest. The ludicrously protracted opening title sequence seems like a blatant stab at dragging the film’s running time over the 90 minute mark. But even after the director’s credit has come and gone, the pace remains the same. Maybe Gallo was trying to deliver some “slow cinema” class to the direct-to-market cheapie arena but Vanquish just feels like a bad movie watched at half speed.
Ruby Rose plays Victoria, a caretaker to a retired police commissioner named Damon (Morgan Freeman) who was left unable to walk after being shot. Victoria has a criminal past and a daughter suffering from a rare disease, both of which come into play when Damon–who turns out to be the ringleader of an organization of corrupt cops–kidnaps the young girl and forces Victoria to spend a long night getting back to her old ways and making collections from a litany of dangerous underworld figures.
There are times when Vanquish approaches the neon wooziness of a Nicolas Winding Refn movie. The camera often pushes in on shots somnambulantly, the synthy score never quite lets up and there are sometimes multiple dissolves within the same scene, which produces a dreamy, Lynchian effect.
But the spell is broken any time a character opens their mouth. Vanquish can’t ever emulate the stylish, moody violence of something like Drive because it doesn’t have that (admittedly trying in its own way) movie’s stomach for obscurantism. Plot and character points are overexplained at every turn and with the most pedestrian dialogue imaginable. Even Gallo’s visual language can be painfully dumb, as when the corrupt cops rough up one of their own who is suspected of blabbing to the feds and we watch it all go down from the point of view of a rat. Get it?!
Even worse than a visual gag like that are the moments when Gallo and co-screenwriter Samuel Bartlett try to give Victoria snappy dialogue. Rose is a terrific performer in the right circumstances, as evidenced by movies like John Wick: Chapter 2 and last year’s underseen The Doorman. The latter is a Die Hard homage that wisely doesn’t try to turn Rose into a wisecracking John McClane type, a pitfall sadly not avoided by Vanquish.
In many ways, actually, Vanquish is not a significantly stupider movie than The Doorman was. It’s just that, in that case, director Ryûhei Kitamura knew to get it right where it counted; namely, with the action. Unfortunately, the nonurgent gunplay in Vanquish is the only consistently funny thing about it.