Vanquish Synopsis: A mother, Victoria (Ruby Rose), is trying to put her dark past as a Russian drug courier behind her, but retired cop Damon (Morgan Freeman) forces Victoria to do his bidding by holding her daughter hostage.
With the shoot’em up genre featuring fewer action stars than previous eras (The Rock and Jason Statham have moved on to big-scale blockbusters), Ruby Rose’s indoctrination as an action heroine has been refreshing to see. Supporting roles in John Wick 2 and xXx: Return of Xander Cage have propped the talented actor to starring roles, although most of her early vehicles have sunk under her sharp-edge abilities (last year’s The Doorman was a snooze fest).
Now, Rose is gracing the big-screen alongside Oscar-winner Morgan Freeman in the twisting action/thriller Vanquish. Despite the noticeable pedigree on display, director George Gallo’s film rarely conveys the taunt bloodshed synonymous with the genre.
Gallo, an unsung veteran of the genre (conceived the Bad Boys franchise and wrote Midnight Run), possesses some stylistic juice behind the screen. A myriad of inventive shot selections and atmospheric lighting draws colorful imagery despite the film’s technical inconsistencies. From dingey greens to glowing club-scented hues, Gallo sets a vibrant playground for bullets to ensue while allowing his actors to take center stage. Morgan Freeman’s signature gravitas and Ruby Rose’s steely delivery are far better than what material gives them.
While mildly engaging, Vanquish rarely excels within its genre framework. Gallo’s go-for-broke approach behind the camera lacks the required grace and technical prowess to pull off a pulsating sense of momentum. Several of the overbaked flourishes wind up in unintentionally comedic territory, with Gallo throwing the kitchen sink at the screen with hilariously dated results (repetitive zoom techniques and whip pans feel like a goofy distraction). The bizarre visual busyness detracts from any of the sturdily drawn stuntwork on display.
On a narrative front, Vanquish doesn’t score points for its minimal effort. Gallo and Samuel Bartlett’s barebones screenplay does little to reinvigorate its rudimentary cat-and-mouse formula, seemingly pausing the film at times only to introduce waves of dull exposition. Neither Rose nor Freeman’s characters are imbued with much humanity or dimension, while the rouge’s gallery of scummy adversaries do little to elicit much interest (they range from glib henchmen to painfully dated stereotypes). There’s nothing here of note when the action isn’t flying at a frenetic clip.
I’ve sat through worse run-of-the-mill actioners, but that’s the best statement I can declare about Vanquish. Aside from a few memorably bizarre flourishes, Gallo’s effort does little to elevate the genre’s bargain bin formula.
Vanquish is available in Select Theaters on April 16th and on Apple TV, and Everywhere You Rent Movies on April 20th! Available on Blu-ray and DVD on April 27th.
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