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Vice - Movie Review

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Vice - Movie Review

What is the director of such Will Ferrell comedy classics as Anchorman, Talledega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, and Step Brothers doing taking on the story of the architect of one of the most contentious periods in American political history? He’s putting his signature The Big Short spin on it, that’s what.

Of late, filmmaker Adam McKay has been bucking our preconceived notions of what type of filmmaker we think he is by taking on much more meaningful projects. And, by more meaningful, I mean more important. And in the process, he has begun to develop his own signature voice that is tinged with loads of fetching charm and an acerbic wit that can turn even the most mundane topics (or people) into fascinating films. And that is certainly the case with his latest, the Dick Cheney biopic called Vice which plays out very much like his previous film, The Big Short.

In that film, McKay used a freestyle approach deploying cutaways, a fractured timeline, voice overs, and surreal comedy to get his points across, while also making the complex machinations of the 2007 financial crisis and housing bubble burst more readily digestible for us common folk who often struggle with the simplest of financial tasks such as balancing a checkbook.

"a precarious high-wire act that always entertains, and never fails to make us think."

He does the same with the structure of Vice by creating a hybrid genre that utilizes a time-shifting narrative, collaged documentary footage, fourth-wall breaks, and unconventional voice-over narration to explain the dangerous political rise of a man whose thirst for power was only surpassed by the dubious means he was willing to employ in order to satisfy that appetite.

As a result, Vice is a precarious high-wire act that always entertains, and never fails to make us think. And it is funny too, with absurdist humor at which we shake our heads, wondering how we ever arrived at our current moment. But most importantly, Vice always feels original. Is it too early to say that it feels like a McKay film? Perhaps, but the fact remains that he is reaching for something outside the norm, and while he doesn’t always hit the bullseye, in a Hollywood chock-full of biopics, originality goes a long way.

We get our first hint that McKay’s film will be anything but ordinary from a title card that reads, “the following is a true story. Or as true as it can be, given that Dick Cheney is known as one of the most secretive leaders in history. But we did our fucking best.” Then, we meet a young Cheney (Christian Bale) in early ‘60s Wyoming as a hard-partying Yale washout trying to make it as a telephone lineman. The timeline then suddenly jumps to the events unfolding in the direct aftermath of 9/11 as Cheney is being hauled into a secure bunker while calling the shots in D.C. on the behalf of the President. McKay then pulls up again and begins a back-and-forth journey that fills in the events between point A and point B, showing us Cheney’s rise to power and the history-making decisions that still have an effect on today’s political climate. {googleads}

This wild ride is driven by Bale whose physical transformation into the Penguin-like Cheney is nothing short of award-caliber with an added forty pounds, and perfectly-executed tics and mannerisms that play nicely against his cut-throat enthusiasm and soul-selling appetite for power. Contrast that to his familial tenderness – especially at the news of his daughter Mary’s (Alison Pill) pronouncement that she was gay – and the character is certainly one of the most all around well-executed of the season.

But Cheney was driven by his high school sweetheart and wife Lynne (Amy Adams) who shared Dick’s love of family but, more importantly, also harbored that same evil lust for control, for she knew that if you’re not in charge, then someone else is. Adams’ performance is lion-like, full of power, stealth, and ferocity that plays into McKay’s attempt to show the pair’s desire for absolute power and the way they very nearly pulled it off.

Vice - Movie Review

The remainder of the cast holds its own with Sam Rockwell portraying the dim-witted George W. Bush while Steve Carell turns in a brilliant depiction of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. Jesse Plemmons (Game Night) narrates the film as a major character that I won’t spoil here, and Tyler Perry stands in nicely as Secretary of State Colin Powell.

McKay certainly harbors strong opinions about the corruption of American politics and how public opinion has become so polarized in our world of 24-hour advertising, misinformation, and fake news. And fortunately, he has the skills to share those ideas with us.

Despite being grounded in large doses of truth, many will be put off by McKay’s less than favorable portrayal of Dick Cheney, while others will undoubtedly interpret McKay’s techniques and choices as overwriting. Regardless, his Vice is an entertaining watch that takes on some fairly heady issues such as political greed, corruption, and the lengths some will go to for absolute control. It will undoubtedly be one the funniest films you’ll see this season while at the same time one of the most excruciatingly squirmy.

4 stars

Vice - Movie Review

MPAA Rating: R for language and some violent images.
132 mins
: Adam McKay
Adam McKay
Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Steve Carell
: Biography | Drama
The Untold True Story That Changed the Course of History.
Memorable Movie Quote: "Whaddaya say?... I want you to be my VP. I want you, you're ma vice."
Theatrical Distributor:
Annapurna Pictures
Official Site:
Release Date:
December 28, 2018
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
No details available.
Synopsis: Explores the epic story about how a bureaucratic Washington insider (Christian Bale) quietly became the most powerful man in the world as Vice-President to George W. Bush, reshaping the country and the globe in ways that we still feel today.


Vice - Movie Review


Blu-ray Details:

No details available.



Vice - Movie Review

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