By no means would I ever try to sell you on the idea that action movie staple Ruby Rose (John Wick: Chapter 2, The Meg, The Doorman) is a great actor. I will say, however, that’s she’s at least as good as any male counterpart who has made a living doing almost exclusively action films. But after watching her in her latest work, Vanquish, I can say definitively that she is at a point in her career where she deserves better than this. In it, Rose plays Victoria, a single mother and caretaker of a man who was once one of the most important police officers in the country; her employer, Damon (Morgan Freeman), was nearly killed and left paralyzed and wheelchair-bound. As it turns out, Damon wasn’t a very honest cop and was involved in a great deal of criminal activity, along with many of his subordinates who are still loyal to him.
On this particular night, Damon is in danger of getting exposed and he needs to recruit Victoria against her will to strap on a body camera, hop on a motorcycle, and make five money pickups across town, bringing each bag of money back to Damon. She doesn’t want to do it, but he kidnaps her daughter as leverage. It also turns out that in her previous life, Victoria and her brother were deadly drug couriers for the Russians, until her brother was killed and Victoria went into hiding at Damon’s home. He told anyone gunning for her that she was off limits as long as she was living with him, and peace was maintained. But now she’s leaving the friendly confines, and suddenly every criminal she caused harm to over the years is gunning for her.
Directed and co-written by George Gallo (who wrote Midnight Run and directed such stinkers as Double Take, Middle Men and The Poison Rose), Vanquish is meant to be a portrait of desperation, but it’s basically just a non-stop chase movie punctuated by gunplay and occasional explosions as Victoria goes from sleazy joint to sleazy joint, collecting money and knocking off any threat. The film is over-directed, with too many visual styles and editing tricks for its own good, and the result is less trippy action adventure and more headaches from the flashing lights and loud noises. Freeman is utterly wasted as the literal man in the chair, communicating with Victoria as she attempts to escape each new villain, with Damon’s directions and other useful escape tactics.
There’s also a useless subplot involving Damon’s minions attempting to figure out how much information one of their own turned over to the FBI when he turned rat. The plot thread does sort of pay off in the end, but there could have been so many easier, straighter paths to take to get there. In the end, those scenes just feel like an excuse to break up the action and extend the movie to get it over 90 minutes.
The only thing I can recommend even slightly with this movie is Rose’s performance as a protective mother of an ill child, who just wants to get on with her life. But she snaps back into her old routines and habits as a trained killer, and it makes the movie somewhat more tolerable as a result. The “twist” at the end of the movie is a sad attempt to not see Freeman as a complete villain, but honestly I was just glad when it was over. The baddies in Vanquish are beyond stereotypes, the action is okay but nothing notable, and the payoff doesn’t pay off in the slightest. Rose is usually a reason to at least pay attention to a movie, but the more you do that here, the more you’ll come to realize she may be the only decent thing in this messy, subpar title.
The film is playing in select theaters and will be available via VOD beginning April 20.
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