After starring as the brooding, menacing and powerful Dark Knight, Christian Bale gains 45 pounds, shaves his head and bleaches his eyebrows to star as the brooding, menacing and powerful Dick Cheney. Sadly, this is a partisan hatchet job on the former vice president, but it could have been worse. James Earl Jones could have been cast.
Whatever your political persuasion, there’s a lot to dislike about Cheney, so it’s really not necessary to be unfair, disrespectful or mean-spirited in the presentation. Sure, liberals can nod their heads and be reminded why they feel this man single-handedly “ruined the world,” but Cheney (or any politician) should be evaluated for the totality of their work.
Conservatives have their own hacks. Dinesh D’Souza produces audacious and horribly flawed works against President Obama. We live in a “disinformed” world where social media memes are considered solid political discourse. Adam McKay (“The Big Short,” “Ron Burgundy: Anchorman”) attempts this quasi-biography in the spirit of his award-winning expose on the Wall Street crash, but it feels more like the inept Anchorman.
Cheney deserves better than this and we’re speaking mostly to the liberal audience. As political centrists, we suggest a more “fair and balanced” presentation would lend more credence to the message. Instead, McKay writes, directs and produces this vicious satire in a rather peculiar “hit and miss” style that mostly misses.
For artistic reasons, Dick and Lynn (Amy Adams) share their evening thoughts as a Shakespearean soliloquy. In the middle of the story, title credits roll as the Cheney story comes to a likely end, but there is much more to come. Cheney breaks the fourth wall to tell the audience he has no apologies for his decisions, that we chose him and he did what we wanted him to do. Fair enough. Finally, the cast filmed a musical sequence that was thankfully cut in final editing.
This is a real-life monster movie, but the monotonous evildoer should also be admired for serving in congress, as chief of staff, secretary of defense and vice president of the United States. Sure, he overreached his authority but felt he was the smartest man in the room, and maybe he was. He quietly and diligently worked each staff position but watched and waited for the right opportunity to present his opinion for optimal impact.
The acting is superb. Bale fully immerses himself in the role of the Veep. Adams is credible as his shrewd and driven wife Lynn, while Steve Carrel sufficiently presents the ruthless Donald Rumsfeld, as Cheney’s mentor. Tyler Perry is an intriguing Colin Powell while Sam Rockwell unfairly presents George W. Bush as an “aw-shucks” country rube.
Cheney admirers consider him the most qualified and powerful vice president ever. Meanwhile, detractors call him an ambitious, empty-souled, power monger whose actions pointlessly killed hundreds of thousands in an unjustified war. Either way, we hoped McKay would deliver a more restrained and intelligent script that could reveal insights into Cheney’s true motivations. This one-sided and self-righteous narration becomes a bit tedious. As we learned from the O.J. trial, it’s unnecessary and unwarranted to frame a guilty man. The result is that everyone walks away angry.
“Vice” is 132 minutes and rated R for language and violent images. It’s fascinating to watch a story of the man that changed the history of our country and the world forever. We just hoped the story had focused more on the why and how and less on generating rage for both sides. During filming, even the extras argued over the political antics presented, including the 2016 “hanging chad” election. It escalated into a physical brawl.
Cheney was an unassuming Washington bureaucrat that morphed into a powerfully calculating politician. He seemed to see the big picture but was attributed with some of the most costly and deadly mistakes in history, leaving politics with a 13 percent approval rating, the lowest ever. Give the guy credit. He may have been wrong but was never confused.
Ron’s Rating: D
Leigh’s Rating: F