"Vanquish" is an example of the sort of pandemic-friendly filmmaking that, for a while, it looked like we were going to be stuck with but hopefully won't be.
A small cast of actors appears alone or in small pods and moves around as little as possible. Its star, Morgan Freeman, never even leaves his character's house (presumably, a big canister of bacterial wipes is always just out of camera range). He plays Damon, a former police officer who uses a wheelchair and whose life seems to have been plucked from a video game. He kidnaps the daughter of caregiver Victoria (Ruby Rose) in order to force Victoria to kill a bunch of gangsters who have the goods on him.
Much of that sounds ridiculous but "Vanquish" — which shares a name with an unrelated role-play video game and includes a series of violent scenarios that feel video-game-ish — gets even more ridiculous when it tries to explain itself.
Victoria, it turns out, is a former drug courier. This apparently gave her experience at taking out goons, which apparently is a good skill to have in the home health care industry. And, although the movie leans hard on Freeman's avuncular quality, we're supposed to forgive Damon's endangerment of women and children because he's in a really tough spot.
Freeman and Rose are fine in the movie, even if the best that can be said about it is that it kept capable actors busy while they waited for something better to come along, and Patrick Muldoon is surprisingly effective as an evil sleaze. But, elsewhere on the cast list, there are hints that adding a COVID-19 safety line-item to the budget resulted in slashing the money available for actors.
Whereas the scenes with those three leads work pretty well, a handful of sequences in which a variety of toughs meet to discuss their options are laughably bad because the actors can barely string together complete sentences. Seriously, you've seen more credible "gangsters" shooting dice in high school productions of "Guys and Dolls."
The effect is almost like flipping between two channels. One shows a fairly competent, if unspecial, action movie with real actors and the other features an amateurish, cable-access thingamajig that some pals made in between filming city council meetings.
Director George Gallo doesn't seem to have been much help to the latter group but he keeps things moving, bringing energy to the eliminate-the-gangsters sequences.
Overall, this is a pandemic project that I suspect will be like the virus itself, in that everybody involved will be relieved to see it in their rearview mirrors.
Chris Hewitt • 612-673-4367