The sensory overload in “Vanquish” kicks in right from the start, with an opening credits montage featuring a pounding techno score, images of snakes and guns and a lighthouse and an eyeball and a flock of birds, the sounds of police sirens, and a montage of newspaper headlines and reports chronicling the career achievements of one Damon Hickey, who we’re told rose all the way up to being “America’s Police Commissioner,” which is not a thing but there you have it.
By the time those opening credits calm the bleep down, we know that Hickey, played by Morgan Freeman, was gunned down on his front doorstep, presumably on the orders of some disgruntled drug dealer or crime boss, and is now retired and in a wheelchair for life.
Cut to a church in the dead of night, which gives director George Gallo another opportunity to pile on the overwrought symbolism, as we see rows of candles and statues of saints and light refracting through stained glass windows as Damon bares his soul to a crooked priest who quickly changes the subject to inform Damon their whole criminal operation is in danger because one of Damon’s henchmen has turned against them and is singing to the feds.
That’s right. Damon was a hero cop — but he was also a criminal mastermind who has continued to oversee operations from his enormous lair, which looks like a good-sized modern art museum. This is getting complicated fast!
Dripping in self-conscious touches, riddled with cheap crime-movie dialogue and deeply dependent on one ho-hum shootout and chase scene after another, “Vanquish” is a slick and forgettable thriller with the great Morgan Freeman giving one of his least interesting performances ever and the talented Ruby Rose grimly trying to infuse some life into a thinly drawn character who must un-retire from her previous criminal past and pull off one last seemingly suicidal mission, because she has no other choice. Bummer!
Rose plays Victoria, who works as a caretaker for Damon. Victoria is the single mother to an adorable daughter named Lily (Juju Journey Brener), who is suffering from a mysterious, unnamed and potentially fatal condition. The wealthy Damon says he will help out Victoria — but only if she’ll make five stops in one night, picking up large sums of ill-gotten cash every step of the way. Oh, and Damon has kidnapped Lily, so Victoria doesn’t have much say in the matter.
Cue to the montages of Victoria entering one ludicrously overdecorated lair after another and dealing with one snarling gangster after another. Time and again, there’s a problem, and there’s a shootout, and there’s a chase sequence, which at least offers sweet relief from lines such as, “So, we meet again,” “We want you to come over to our side,” and “You’re the only person I can trust.” Many scenes are bathed in a sickly green, as if we’re watching everything through cheap night-vision goggles; others are tinted blood-red. No matter what filters are used, there’s no disguising this is garbage wrapped in a glossy package.