There is a global truth about trust. The wealthy don’t trust the poor, and the poor don’t trust the police. Another truth is Texas’ cautionary motto (“Don’t mess with Texas”). Having almost been arrested three times in that state, I can safely say that Texan authorities take their state motto very seriously. This holds true for skateboarders, speeders, trespassers and strippers, who according to “Vice,” are really public enemy number one of the Houston redneck party-boy vice squad. Sucks to be a stripper in Texas. Sucks even more to be a stripper named Savannah Logan (Maxine Bahns).
Houston’s vice cops spend a good deal of their time using money “acquired” from drug dealers to buy booze and lap dances in strip clubs throughout the city. After spending thousands of dollars over the course of a few nights at one club, they decide to arrest 30 strippers all in the name of protecting the public. (You say “tomato,” I say “job security.”) “Vice” is the story of Savannah, one of the strippers who was falsely arrested. The film is a fictionalization based on actual court transcripts, and what it uncovers says more about police than it does about the act of taking off one’s clothes in semi-public settings.
This is a very funny film. Funny in a disturbing way, though. You see, the police provide most of the entertainment, and that should not be the case. Police should not be drinking when they pull their guns. Police should get their facts straight. Police shouldn’t lie. And police definitely shouldn’t arrest people without a reason. (One officer has a great quote, taken directly from the transcript: “If she [Savannah] didn’t do anything wrong, then why did my men arrest her?” Scary, telling and true.) They do all these things in this film, which shows the public exactly what can go wrong when a community decides to dictate morals. The people put in place to enforce these ludicrous laws usually turn out to be bigger criminals than the “thugs” they arrest.
I’ve worked in the porno industry in different capacities, and I’ve dealt with police on far too many occasions. (I even did a revealing series of interviews with police on the topic of victimless crimes. Not one could competently defend the decision to arrest prostitutes.) I am unfortunate enough to know how the issues of the sex trade are dealt with by the men in blue. Most of the public isn’t as lucky. Like sausage making, the people want vice cleaned up but don’t want to know how it’s done (or even if that’s a moral thing to do). “Vice,” while humorous, has a serious message for these willingly blind people: Open your eyes. A rogue police force is far more dangerous than strippers. Cops should be arresting child molesters, not topless dancers.
When are people going to learn?