If you want to learn how to completely and utterly fail at satire, look no further than Adam McKay’s Vice. It honestly does pain me to say this was one of the worst experiences I’ve ever had in the cinema. As a matter of fact, I was seconds away from walking out at one point. But, like any good critic, I stayed in my seat. I hoped and prayed it would get better… but it didn’t. If anything, it snowballed.
Vice is a ‘comedy’ (I’ve put this in quotation marks because there’s nothing funny about it) biopic about former American Vice President, Dick Cheney. The film attempts to give us further insight into his life, and how he got away with all the horrible things he did whilst in office. On paper, it actually sounds pretty appealing, especially for someone like me who knows very little about the man. On screen, it is an entirely different experience. 24 hours later, I’m still shocked by how appalling it was.
So, what has Vice done to receive such a scathing review from me? First and foremost, the dialogue is horrendously condescending and talks to the audience like they’re complete idiots. I have never seen such a patronising and immature biopic in my entire life. I’m not sure what’s more obnoxious: Cheney himself or the tone of the film. Maybe they’re on par with each other. I was barely half an hour into this when I was already starting to feel angry about the way they addressed things. You can give your audience context without talking down to them. The film did everything it could to seem edgy and like it was giving the audience the finger, but I just sat there cringing the whole time. It failed.
Secondly, the narrative is all over the place. I’m perfectly fine with non-linear stories, provided they actually make sense. Vice doesn’t know whether it’s coming or going, and changes between the past and future constantly. The pacing is an absolute shambles and makes the film feel longer than it actually is. It runs at just over 2 hours, but feels so much longer than that. I have never wanted a film to end so badly. In fact, I was ready to get up and leave when they decided to throw in a fake ending in an attempt to be funny. Yes, that actually happens. No, I didn’t laugh.
Don’t even get me started on the way it sloppily splices random pictures and video clips throughout the film, making me wonder who on earth nominated this for Best Editing. Are they okay? Without spoiling this too much, Vice’s editing is incredibly jarring and decides to patronise the audience even further by giving visual aids to the idioms that are described by the narrator. At one point it even tries to condescendingly explain Guantanamo Bay, which just caused me to facepalm. What were you thinking guys?
Having said all of this, does the film have some redeeming features? Sure. The quality of the acting is good, I enjoyed Christian Bale as Cheney and Amy Adams as his equally awful wife, Lynne. I also enjoyed Steve Carell as Donald Rumsfeld and Sam Rockwell as George W Bush. It is a shame to waste such great talent on a script as weak as this one. If someone had written this better, maybe I would’ve enjoyed it a lot more. Sadly, I’m stuck with this one. I’m baffled by how anyone can consider this to be a well written script. If anyone wants to enlighten me, by all means, try.
If I never have to watch Vice again, I’ll be fine with that. I feel completely let down by McKay, and this hurts more considering I like some of his other films such as Anchorman and Step Brothers. He’s better than this, and I hope he can redeem himself with whatever he creates next.
If you still want to see Vice, here’s the trailer. I’d be interested in your thoughts but it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to change my mind about this one.