A cool idea can go a long way in making a good movie. But rarely is a movie good solely because of a cool idea. That speaks to the biggest problem with “Vanquish”, the new crime thriller directed and co-written by George Gallo. The movie’s snappy premise is action movie junk food, the perfect scenario for wild car chases, shoot-outs, and all sorts of cinematic mayhem. It’s the pieces around it that ends up dragging the whole thing down.
Although he’s been working pretty steady for over three decades, George Gallo is probably still known best as the screenwriter for “Midnight Run” and the first “Bad Boys” movie. With “Vanquish” he takes budding action star Ruby Rose and teams her with screen veteran Morgan Freeman. Both prove to be more than capable of pulling their weight and selling their roles.￼ It’s the unconvincing supporting characters around them and the wafer-thin story that squashes any potential. It ends up being a movie all about the action beats and not much else.
A lengthy opening credits scene introduces us to Freeman’s character. He plays Damon Hickey, a highly decorated former police detective who later became known as “America’s Police Commissioner”. But then he was gunned down on the front steps of his home by a drug cartel seeking retribution. He survived the attempted hit but was left paralyzed and confined to a wheelchair for the rest of his life. Now he lives in a posh ultra-modern home where he’s visited daily by his caregiver, a young single mom named Vicky (Rose).
It doesn’t take long for us to learn that “America’s Police Commissioner” has a dark side. It turns out he runs a shady crew of dirty cops and they have their hands in some ugly underworld business. But good luck making much sense of it. Unfortunately it’s all pretty muddled and woefully underwritten. Basically you have dirty cops and dirtier cops, a crooked federal agent and an angry German drug-runner with a vendetta. More importantly, Damon has five bags of money at different locations around the city and he needs someone he can trust to make the pickups. So he asks Vicky to dust off some lethal skills from her past that she has tried to bury and retrieve his cash. And just to make sure she falls in line, Damon has Vicky’s daughter kidnapped until all five pickups are complete.
For the sake of her daughter, Vicky reluctantly agrees. The movie then becomes a series of five action-laced encounters as she picks up a bag of money, has it out with some double-crossing baddies, and takes the cash back to Damon who then gives her the address for the next pickup. In between we get snippets of a broader story about police corruption but it’s so insubstantial you won’t even care. You’ll want more of Ruby Rose cutting through thugs with her pistols as Freeman keeps tabs through her body-cam. The two have a good chemistry and do what they can to keep the film afloat.
But ultimately “Vanquish” needs more than a fun action loop and two well-tuned stars. Gallo tries to spruce things up with the few stylish flourishes, such as bathing several scenes in fluorescent greens and blues, or by occasionally shifting to first-person view when Vicky is zipping through the night on her motorcycle. But the bland band of supporting players and the even more forgettable story (complete with a preposterous ending) are liabilities too big to overcome. “Vanquish” opens April 16th on VOD.
VERDICT – 2 STARS