Vanquish review: this one ain’t John Wick

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Vanquish has pedigree in front and behind the camera but ultimately fails to thrill.

John Wick has a lot to answer for. In this visibly cut-price action thriller, it’s Ruby Rose who gets to wield dual pistols and beat down villains as Victoria. She’s a single mother with “special skills” who’s sent on a series of violent missions when her daughter’s kidnapped by Damon, a retired and decidedly crooked cop played by Morgan Freeman.

The saturated colours and withering violence of the Wick movies are on full display in Vanquish, but there are reminders everywhere that the funds were low when the cameras rolled: locations are cramped, the action is choreographed with minimal enthusiasm and choppily edited, and when the lighting isn’t gaudy, it’s enshrouded in a kind of French grey digital murk.

There are signs too of a 40-page script stretched to just about fill a 90-minute feature: the opening titles, for one thing, last a patience-trying six minutes. Then there’s an interminable driving scene, where events that took place two minutes earlier are relayed again as echoing thoughts running through the heroine’s mind.

Morgan Freeman – who was likely hired in one of those ‘I’ll only be on set for two days’ deals favoured by Bruce Willis – is under-used and spends the entire film in a wheelchair, roaming a gleaming and largely empty mansion. Freeman provides a few menacing stares in the early going, but the rest of the plot leaves him watching Ruby Rose on an iPad as she casually kills dozens of hapless goons. As a change of pace, he also gets to yell advice at her through an earpiece (‘He’s got a gun – get out of there!’). It’s a bit like a remake of that old TV game show, Knightmare, but with bullet wounds and exploding hand grenades in the place of a kid wearing a horned helmet.

What’s most curious about Vanquish is its pedigree. Director George Gallo previously wrote the likes of Midnight Run and Bad Boys and helmed several features, so it’s a mystery how this movie wound up looking like a late-2000s Steven Seagal effort. Still, Ruby Rose radiates an icy coolness, and some of the film’s less logical leaps of fancy – why does Rose own what looks and sounds like a jet-powered motorbike from the future? How come the bad guys let her walk into a gangland club with two pistols prominently strapped to her back? – prove to be its most memorable points.

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