Although he claims that 80% of his film’s dialogue is based on a court transcript, filmmaker John Woodward applies such a stilted tone to “Vice” that it plays like a junior version of a David E. Kelley episode. Project was driven by helmer’s anger at, specifically, Houston law enforcement’s ill-spent resources on vice raids, targeting victimless crimes while violent crime rises. Serious intent is undermined by a comic approach erratically juggling satire, social commentary and slapstick, while scattershot manner obviously apes the Kelley style in all the wrong ways, resulting in blander-than-bland visuals. Wider fest prospects are dim, though some outlets in deep cable might take the case.
Action is restricted to a Houston courtroom and adjacent spaces as stripper Savannah (Maxine Bahns) is on trial for violation of city’s rigid “lewd conduct” statute. But despite an aggressive D.A. (Bellary Darden-Davis), it quickly becomes clear that Savannah has a potent case and defense team (Bo Hopkins and Jeff Meek). Thesping, plus some amusing one-liner absurdisms, are pic’s saving graces, with Irv Gorman and Mickey Jones as two good-ol’-boy vice cops nearly stealing the show.