Rated R. On Apple TV and select theaters.
Writer-director George Gallo penned “Midnight Run,” one of the best, most influential mismatched buddy, road movies of the late part of the 20th century. In the mid ’90s, he conceived the story of “Bad Boys,” a hugely successful, comic-violent, buddy cop franchise initiator directed by Michael Bay and co-starring Will Smith and Martin Lawrence. Gallo’s latest does not live up to that introduction by a long shot. “Vanquish,” which Gallo co-wrote with Samuel Bartlett, costars Morgan Freeman and TV’s former “Batwoman,” Ruby Rose. He is former police commissioner Damon, who is confined to a wheelchair, but very tech-savvy. She is Victoria, a woman with a peekaboo Australian accent and a buzz-cut head, who lives in Damon’s palatial home with her young daughter, Lily (Juju Journey Brener). Victoria is Damon’s caretaker.
In scenes set in some cathedral, we see stained glass windows and a dangling crucifix. “I have stepped off the righteous path,” Damon laments unconvincingly to his confessor (Bill Luckett), who turns out to be a kind of gangland priest. If Damon stepped off the righteous path, it was a long time ago. We see a scurrying rat and three mugs, corrupt policemen, as it turns out, beating a man to death.
Damon forcibly enlists “Vicky” to be his bag man for the night, using her “old skills,” by abducting Lily. Where could the little girl be — the guy is in a wheelchair. Maybe Vicky should take a quick look around? Gesturing to a motorcycle, Damon tells Vicky to “suit up,” meaning put on a body cam, a helmet cam and strap twin handguns to her back in clear view and go pick up the first of five bags of cash. Damon is going to watch and listen to everything that happens on his array of computer screens.
“Vanquish,” formerly titled “The Longest Night,” is both obvious and obscure. The storytelling is rudimentary, suggesting not so much narrative precision, as budget limitations. Where are we? you might ask. It turns out to be Biloxi and Jackson, Miss., although I’m not sure we’re meant to know that. Vicky’s first pick-up location is a “German nightclub” (a what?), where she wipes out a couple of “German” armed guards with head shots and makes quick work of others. No one notices Vicky’s guns or hears her gunshots. Perhaps they were distracted by the brain-numbing score of Aldo Shllaku (“Kill ‘Em All”). Muttering, “Nein,” the owner of the nightclub goes on a vendetta against Vicky.
On her second pick-up Vicky enters a large warehouse, where we see a giant mask and hear mad laughter in the dark. Someone watches a curling competition on TV. Gallo stages one of the dullest, slowest, confusingly edited, high-speed chases ever. On another one of her stops, Vicky is drugged by a bad guy. “Don’t pass out,” cautions Damon in her earpiece. I know just how she feels.
Freeman does his best to give Gallo and Bartlett’s would-be pithy witticisms some gravitas and mostly fails. Rose pulls faces, rides the bike, asks repeatedly where her daughter is and blows people away. She is a fascinating screen presence. Even in a low-down, B-movie like this, you have to watch her. Keep watching.
(“Vanquish” contains extreme violence, sexually suggestive language and profanity.)
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Vanquish’ your hopes for a taut action thriller