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Vanquish film review – a dreadful John Wick knock off

James City A.M.'s film editor and a regular on both TV and radio discussing the latest movie releases
There are certain stars that draw a reaction when they become involved in a project. Oscar winner Morgan Freeman is one of those names, with the Shawshank Redemption and Bruce Almighty star’s gravitas lending something to any film he appears in. Sadly, all the prestige in the world can’t save his latest action-thriller, Vanquish.

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Ruby Rose stars as Victoria, a single mother who has put her criminal past behind her with the help of a kindly former police chief named Damon (Freeman). However, Damon reveals to her that he has become wealthy thanks to a side-line in criminal activity, linked to police corruption. He needs her to turn to her old skills to make a series of five stops, picking up money from various criminal strongholds. When she refuses, he holds her daughter hostage, promising to release her when the job is done. During one hectic night, Victoria must face enemies old and new, as well as find out a way to break away from Damon’s control.

  must face enemies old and new, as well as find out a way to break away from Damon’s control. 

Veteran filmmaker George Gallo must have worn out his copy of John Wick looking for inspiration for Vanquish. Even then, the Midnight Run screenwriter can’t find the formula to emulate that movie’s thrills. A threadbare plot throws us into a lifeless series of oddly lit locations, horrendous dialogue, and non-existent characters. We’re only barely aware of why Victoria is on this night of carnage, much less what the significance of her ‘stops’ is other than setting up one protracted fight scene after another. 

It seems to willingly dive into the worst action-thriller tropes: greasy haired cooked cops, gruff European gangsters, and a horrid portrayal of a gay drug dealer that plays to those with the lowest homophobic tendencies. It would be offensive were it not so poorly executed, and viewers may be forgiven for wondering what on Earth is going on right up until the lacklustre finale, when we wished we hadn’t asked. 

Rose is a solid action star who has kicked ass in films like XXX: Return of Xander Cage, The Meg, and opposite Keanu Reeves in John Wick Chapter 2. There’s a toughness that suggests she can stack the bodies high, but she struggles to bring anything to a character that’s non-existent on the page. Equally, Freeman calls the shots from a remote location, and is more involved than most A-listers who come into an independent production for a paycheque. However, even the gravitas of God himself can’t make up for a story that doesn’t develop, and a role that isn’t interesting. 

Vanquish’s weaknesses are exemplified in the title sequence, a seven-minute montage of images thrown at you, that don’t convey anything other than the vaguest details. A cynical exercise in using star power to sell a lifeless movie.

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