Vice

2008, Movie, R, 98 mins

Review

VICE
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B-movie stalwart Michael Madsen turns in a no-holds-barred, road-wreck performance in this nihilistic crime thriller, which plays out a variation on the old maxim that there's no honor among thieves -- even if they're cops.

Veteran vice cop Walker (Madsen) has been caught in a downward spiral ever since his wife died of cancer: He regularly drinks himself insensible, picks up barflies when he can and pays for hookers when he can't. But he's still keeping it together at work until a drug bust goes terribly wrong: As part of a six-month-old task force, Walker and his partner, Sampson (Mykelti Williamson), painstakingly set up midlevel heroin dealer Darius Reed (Emy Aneke), only to have him get spooked during the big score. In the ensuing melee, Sampson is shot and Walker kills an unarmed woman. Team member Travalino (John Cassino) discovers a huge cache of dope, and Walker covers himself by having Salt (Daryl Hannah), the only woman on the task force, plant a weapon on the dead woman's body. Aside from the fact that Darius escaped, everything seems accounted for until members of the vice task force start turning up dead, their apartments rifled, and uniformly despised new boss Jenkins (Nicholas Lea) sticks his by-the-book nose into the matter. The discovery that 40 kilos of heroin went missing the night of the bust casts the situation in a disturbing new light: Someone appears to be looking for payback, and the surviving members of the task force must ask themselves whether one (or more) of them is involved.

What writer-director Raul Sanchez Inglis lacks in subtlety he makes up for in sheer miserable commitment: Walker's histrionic voice-over meditations on guilt, destiny and life's fundamental injustice are painfully juvenile, but the film overall oozes an all-too-convincing atmosphere of despair, resignation and bitter self loathing. leave a comment --Maitland McDonagh

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