A patronising mess of a film: My review of “Vice”

Rating: ★

If you want to learn how to completely and utterly fail at satire, look no further than Adam McKay’s Vice. It honestly does pain me to say this was one of the worst experiences I’ve ever had in the cinema. As a matter of fact, I was seconds away from walking out at one point. But, like any good critic, I stayed in my seat. I hoped and prayed it would get better… but it didn’t. If anything, it snowballed.

Vice is a ‘comedy’ (I’ve put this in quotation marks because there’s nothing funny about it) biopic about former American Vice President, Dick Cheney.  The film attempts to give us further insight into his life, and how he got away with all the horrible things he did whilst in office. On paper, it actually sounds pretty appealing, especially for someone like me who knows very little about the man. On screen, it is an entirely different experience. 24 hours later, I’m still shocked by how appalling it was.

So, what has Vice done to receive such a scathing review from me?  First and foremost, the dialogue is horrendously condescending and talks to the audience like they’re complete idiots. I have never seen such a patronising and immature biopic in my entire life.  I’m not sure what’s more obnoxious: Cheney himself or the tone of the film. Maybe they’re on par with each other. I was barely half an hour into this when I was already starting to feel angry about the way they addressed things. You can give your audience context without talking down to them. The film did everything it could to seem edgy and like it was giving the audience the finger, but I just sat there cringing the whole time. It failed.

Secondly, the narrative is all over the place. I’m perfectly fine with non-linear stories, provided they actually make sense. Vice doesn’t know whether it’s coming or going, and changes between the past and future constantly. The pacing is an absolute shambles and makes the film feel longer than it actually is. It runs at just over 2 hours, but feels so much longer than that. I have never wanted a film to end so badly. In fact, I was ready to get up and leave when they decided to throw in a fake ending in an attempt to be funny. Yes, that actually happens. No, I didn’t laugh.

Don’t even get me started on the way it sloppily splices random pictures and video clips throughout the film, making me wonder who on earth nominated this for Best Editing. Are they okay? Without spoiling this too much, Vice’s editing is incredibly jarring and decides to patronise the audience even further by giving visual aids to the idioms that are described by the narrator. At one point it even tries to condescendingly explain Guantanamo Bay, which just caused me to facepalm. What were you thinking guys?

Having said all of this, does the film have some redeeming features? Sure. The quality of the acting is good, I enjoyed Christian Bale as Cheney and Amy Adams as his equally awful wife, Lynne. I also enjoyed Steve Carell as Donald Rumsfeld and Sam Rockwell as George W Bush. It is a shame to waste such great talent on a script as weak as this one. If someone had written this better, maybe I would’ve enjoyed it a lot more. Sadly, I’m stuck with this one. I’m baffled by how anyone can consider this to be a well written script. If anyone wants to enlighten me, by all means, try.

If I never have to watch Vice again, I’ll be fine with that. I feel completely let down by McKay, and this hurts more considering I like some of his other films such as Anchorman and Step Brothers. He’s better than this, and I hope he can redeem himself with whatever he creates next.

If you still want to see Vice, here’s the trailer. I’d be interested in your thoughts but it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to change my mind about this one.






12 thoughts on “A patronising mess of a film: My review of “Vice”

  1. Like you, I liked the performances – but I felt he tried to hard to be funny and it didn’t work. Also just floated over so many things like Haliburton etc..like they never ruined millions of people’s lives. It was an odd film to be sure..

    Liked by 1 person

  2. The Big Short was Exhibit #1 in the argument that dense macroeconomics can be turned into a coherent, amusing, but also infuriating movie with an ensemble cast and sneaky sense of humor. Normally you’d think such concepts would be a better fit for a prestige TV series, but The Big Short somehow condensed it all into a feature length.

    Vice is the counter to that. Vice needed to be a mini-series. It feels like McKay knows that deep down inside but couldn’t accept it. So, he overcompensates like crazy, which is why the film ends up so jarring and condescending.

    It has its fans, though. You clearly aren’t one of them. I saw a little more good in it than you did, but it’s argue to argue that this isn’t one of the biggest disappointments of the late 2018/early 2019 Oscar movies.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Hello! I absolutely loved Vice, I don’t agree that it was a comedy, but political drama, similar in tone to last year’s The Post. A quiet character study with excellent performances throughout, I was riveted. We hardly ever disagree but here it is. Best Picture. (though I have not seen Roma yet) x


  4. Call me a masochist but I laughed when the film talked down to me. I think Adam McCay (sorry for misspell) was speaking to those who voted Mcain and Bush in. Can’t a director take a side and speak to the other side if they have a different opinion. Yeah this movie is polarizing and I love it for that. I don’t agree with all the Oscar love. I had fun with it but Best Picture???? No. Best Actor, hmmmm maybe just to hear Christian Bale Thank Satan again would be sweet.


    1. I’m glad you enjoyed, it just wasn’t for me unfortunately! I can’t say I’d rush to see it again but wouldn’t stop others. 😛 Nah it’s definitely not Best Picture worthy, we had so many better nominees!


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