In the science-fiction non-thriller “Vice,” Bruce Willis plays the CEO of a futuristic resort where perfectly human-looking androids exist to fulfill their clients’ deepest, darkest desires — none of which, it can safely be said, involve watching movies as relentlessly mediocre as this one. Reminiscent of any number of haunting, visionary sources — from Ridley Scott’s seminal “Blade Runner” to Mamoru Oshii’s sex-dolls-with-souls anime “Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence” — this disposable Lionsgate cheapie should pass through theaters as swiftly as it fades from the memory.
Should audiences require some lighthearted relief from “American Sniper,” Clint Eastwood’s serious-minded portrait of the deadliest marksman in U.S. military history, they could probably do worse than “Vice,” which boasts some of the most astoundingly incompetent assassins in the action-pic annals: Fleeing from her pursuers in one hail of machine-gun fire after another, Kelly (Amber Childyrs) never fails to emerge miraculously unscathed. She is, admittedly, well acquainted with death. Like her fellow artificially intelligent beauties at Vice, the brainchild of the powerful Julian Michaels (Willis), Kelly sheds real blood and feels real emotions — all of which prove immensely, realistically gratifying to the sick perverts who come to Vice to indulge their most twisted rape-and-murder fantasies.
After each killing, the artificials’ memories of the preceding 24 hours are erased and their bodies mechanically restored, ready to be defiled by the next customer. Promising as that setup sounds, “Vice” is no “Edge of Tomorrow.” Rather than positioning us inside the psychology of the continually victimized android, Adam Fabrizio and Jeremy Passmore’s script makes Kelly the soulless heroine of a workmanlike chase movie, suddenly realizing her situation and fleeing Julian’s henchman, while a bedraggled detective (Thomas Jane, looking as though the future doesn’t really agree with him) seeks to shut down Vice and the morally dubious wish-fulfillment services it offers.
Conveying zero grit, atmosphere or texture (exterior shots are repetitively bathed in cobalt blue), and gathering little in the way of force or dramatic momentum, “Vice” barely engages with its potential ideas beyond the most blandly expository, bullet-ridden level. The film represents the latest collaboration between director Brian A. Miller, screenwriters Adam Fabrizio and Jeremy Passmore, and star Willis, their previous gift to cinema being last year’s forgettable “The Prince.” In a smarter, less superficial movie, the casting of Willis as the bald-pated villain rather than the bald-pated action hero might have been its own sly source of pleasure; instead, the actor moves through the proceedings with the grimly indifferent look of someone who knows he’s wasting his time and ours.