George Gallo’s Vanquish is an indie action thriller with two big powerhouses in stars Ruby Rose and Morgan Freeman. The setup is simple. Rose plays Victoria, a single mother and former drug courier for the Russian mob. Believing she’s free from those obligations, her longtime mentor, Damon (Morgan Freeman), reveals his true colors and extorts Victoria to make a series of pickups for him, “one last time.” Before Victoria can refuse, Damon has taken the liberty of kidnapping her daughter.
Much like a video game, each delivery becomes successively more difficult to pull off as she must first fight henchmen, then mini-bosses, and finally the big boss. The action is guns, guts, and lots of motorcycle chases. As Victoria enters each compound, Damon, who uses a wheelchair, is the “guy in the chair” and dispenses commands and reminders of her daughter’s situation, along with the obligatory, “How could you do this to me?”
Indie action films are hard to pull off, and it’s where the big studios have the advantage with their deep pockets. Let’s face it: large stacks of cash are required upfront in the arena of action with expenses including stuntmen and stuntwomen, safety requirements, disposable props and vehicles, varying levels of blood and make-up effects, and, of course, that damn insurance. The key to taking on the big studio is to find a way to make the most of limited resources. One way is to put all the action into a big memorable sequence that makes the audience talk about the movie and prompts a return visit with friends. Vanquish has that unforgettable moment.
“Before Victoria can refuse, Damon has taken the liberty of kidnapping her daughter.”
Vanquish is a mid-budget thriller. It can afford more elaborate stunts, particularly motorcycle chases, but the action is still pretty small and feels confined by its lack of resources. Each set piece is okay but doesn’t elevate itself to anything spectacular or memorable, which is vital to compete with the big studios. I understand the plight of independent films when it comes to the limitations of money, but at the same time, it has to deliver anything that will set itself apart from the pack.
What the movie has going for it are its stars. Ruby Rose is kick-a*s and looks good kicking said a***s. How exactly is Morgan Freeman? Freeman can read the phone book and make it engaging, and that’s pretty much what he does here.
The real weakness is the story and the tricks used to tell it. For example, in wrestling, we call it “cheap heat.” It’s essential to create proper sympathy for Victoria and do it fast. The solution here is to kidnap the daughter. One can tell that the scenes the daughter appears in were staged so that she was never in any real danger. To the film’s credit, Freeman appears throughout and is not just making a mere cameo. Then again, he’s in a wheelchair in a single location. While in a villainous role, can Freeman ever really play a true bad guy?
Ultimately, Vanquish falls into the typical cliché of focusing on the action, with the story serving as a way to string the stunts and shootouts together. The plot was too compromised too, and the use of Rose and Freeman is just not enough to push it over the recommendation line. Most people will see the movie solely because of its stars but will recall very little else about it.
"…How exactly is Morgan Freeman in this movie?"