It’s not easy to start over. But Victoria’s doing her best.
Vicky used to run drugs and shoot people for a living. She and her brother made a pretty good team, too. And if her they sometimes stole from their dangerous clients? Well, it’s not like the biz they’re in comes with a great retirement plan, anyway. What’s a little extra risk when the odds are you’ll be dead by 30?
Sure enough, that risk caught up with Vicky’s brother—who was gunned down by the German mob. Vicky escaped with her life and ran clear of the business, too. She’s now a mother, of all things, and a mild-mannered caretaker for Damon, a kindly old cop stuck in a wheelchair.
But being a mom is just as hard as running drugs in its own way. And when Vicky learns that her beloved little girl, Lily, is seriously ill, she doesn’t know what to do. Sure, medical experts say Lily just might be fine with treatment, but Lily can’t afford it on her caretaker’s salary.
“You know, she’s the first thing I ever did right,” she laments to Damon. “She’s perfect. It’s not fair.”
She’s right, of course. But Damon—that kindly old cop—has his own secret to share with her.
Turns out, Damon is less-than-the-ideal police officer he pretends to be. In fact, he’s about as crooked as an 80-year-old coat hanger, and he’s been running a sprawling crime syndicate from his wheelchair for decades now. He could use some help tonight.
Damon needs Vicky to make five stops. Pick up five bags of money and bring them back to Damon, stop after stop after stop. Simple enough. Only some of Damon’s (ahem) clients know all about Vicky. She and her brother made plenty of enemies during their day. And while Damon has protected Vicky up ‘til now, all bets are off when she walks onto their turf and guns are within easy reach.
“It would involve using some of your old skills,” Damon cautions. But if Vicky does this one night’s worth of work, he promises that she’ll have all the money she needs to heal her darling daughter. It’s a little as if Ebenezer Scrooge asked Bob Cratchit to rob a few banks to help poor Tiny Tim.
One more thing: If Vicky refuses, or if she fails, Damon will make sure that she never sees her daughter again.
“I made myself a promise that I would never do this again!” She tells Damon.
“I don’t think you have much of a choice,” he responds. It’s not easy to start over. And if Vicky can survive one more night—five more stops—she just hopes to have the opportunity to start over again.
Vanquish asks us to sympathize with just two characters: Vicky, a former drug-running assassin; and Damon, the crooked cop who essentially kidnaps Vicky’s daughter. Obviously, we’re not starting with a lot of promising role models, here.
But Vicky does love Lily, so that’s something. And Damon, in his own duplicitous way, cares for both Vicky and Lily. “It would help me to help her,” he confides to a priest. And he truly believes that he’s helping her through this one-night operation—no matter how many laws Vicky will have to break to see the dawn.
Vicky rescues a prostitute during her nocturnal activities, so at least someone was helped.
The movie opens, in earnest, in a confessional booth. “Bless me, Father, for I have sinned,” Damon tells his priest.
It’s a bit disingenuous, though, as both he and the priest admit. “You already know my sins, Tom,” Damon says. “You know I stepped off the righteous path.” And Tom knows just how much he has—because the priest has, too. The cleric rattles off some numbers related to their shared crime operation. But Damon also expresses some regret over his fallen state and a desire to somehow redeem himself.
Vicky’s old sins weigh heavy on her, too. Before Damon reveals his nefarious plan, she confesses she doesn’t understand Lily’s illness. “Sometimes I wonder if God is just punishing me for all the terrible things I’ve done in my life,” she says.
“I don’t think God works that way,” Damon tells her. Vicky goes on, though: She wishes that if it is a punishment, God should “make me suffer. That would make sense. Not her.”
Tom, the apparent priest, later admits that he “stopped being a priest a long time ago,” though he still wears the collar.
An opening montage pictures crucifixes and other religious symbols, stressing the movie’s concern about its themes of sin and redemption (though, of course, finding redemption through sin, as this movie suggests is possible, feels theologically problematic). There’s also a kitschy bit of carnival décor that may be a devil’s head.
We see a prostitute wearing either a bra or a very exposing top. A skin-drenched bit of entertainment plays on a large TV, and a thong-wearing woman shakes her exposed behind on screen. (Vicky draws our attention repeatedly to the images.) An effeminate man introduces Vicky to what he suggests are his sexual partners, using some very graphic terminology to describe them.
When Damon first mentions his “caretaker” to his supposed priest, Tom asks him whether he’s having “impure thoughts” toward her. Damon denies any attraction. We do hear that his crime syndicate includes a prostitution operation, though.
A crooked cop sticks his hand down a dead man’s pants—looking for a bug or wire, apparently—as his cohorts look on. Everyone seems more uncomfortable with the intimate fishing than by the fact that they killed a guy. We hear a joke or two related to the size of a man’s anatomy.
Vicky’s five-stop night proves to be pretty bloody. At stop No. 4, her host tells her, “I hear you killed more people [tonight] than Quentin Tarantino.”
That’s a bit of an exaggeration … but only a bit.
Several people get shot in the head, the bullets often accompanied by bright splashes of blood. (The victims all die, naturally.) An explosion kills several more. Vicky must escape many life-endangering situations, both on foot and on motorcycle. She’s shot at often; she and others drive, shall we say, without much regard for traffic laws. (We see flashbacks of previous moments of violence, too, as if the movie had run out of plot and needed to stretch the time.)
We see the brutalized body of someone either dead or dying. Guns are drawn. Threats are made. We hear and read that Damon was paralyzed after getting shot on the front steps of his house.
We hear about 20 f-words, nearly 15 s-words and several other profanities, including “a–,” “b–ch,” “h—,” “d–n” and “p-ss.” God’s name is paired with “d–n” once.
“Fancy a mint julep?” someone at one of Vicky’s five stops asks her. “After all that murder and mayhem, you’d think that you’d be parched!”
Vicky refuses the julep but accepts the man’s water—which, unfortunately, turns out to be drugged. She’s about to pass out when she sees a pile of cocaine on the coffee table, which Vicky quickly sweeps into her face to revive her. After she dispatches her assailants, she quips, “They say that s— will kill you.”
Vicky spends much of the rest of the movie with cocaine residue on her face. We learn that she and her brother ran drugs in her previous career. Much of Damon’s operation involves smuggling and distributing drugs, too. Many of Vicky’s stops would seem to involve drug peddlers, but we don’t see the drugs themselves (or their use) outside of that cocaine scene.
At Vicky visits a couple of bars or nightclubs, and one private home has the appearance of a bar (complete with loads of alcohol). Vicky’s offered some top-shelf liquor at another private home, which she at first rejects and then accepts.
Most of the characters we’re introduced to here, from unapologetic crooks to cops to FBI agents to politicians, are as dirty as a pot-bellied pig’s chew toy. People scheme and plot and blackmail. A villainous henchman is mocked for his weight.
Vanquish stars former Batwoman Ruby Rose and Oscar winner Morgan Freeman. Both of them should’ve known better.
Vanquish is not a good movie. I think Lionsgate knew that when it ditched the film’s original title, The Longest Night, which sounds like a name someone might remember and a movie someone might want to see.
Vanquish? I guess technically there’s some vanquishing done here. But you could make the case that even movies about chess involve some vanquishment. Might as well name this movie Run. Or Glower. Both of which would still be more memorable movie titles.
But again, perhaps the title is for the best, because this is a movie one would want to forget. It’s violent and crass and profane, of course. And it still manages to be very dull and tedious anyway. My guess is that I won’t remember reviewing this thing six months from now. I doubt whether Morgan Freeman will even remember acting in it.
So, if I were you, I’d scratch any memory of this movie or its title from your banks as soon as possible. If we all forget about Vanquish, perhaps it will vanish, and this review will be the only proof that the movie ever existed. Then my editor will accuse me of making up movies, and I will be fired.
Vanquished by Vanquish. How fitting.
Also, sounds like the plot of a better movie than this one.
Paul Asay has been part of the Plugged In staff since 2007, watching and reviewing roughly 15 quintillion movies and television shows. He’s written for a number of other publications, too, including Time, The Washington Post and Christianity Today. The author of several books, Paul loves to find spirituality in unexpected places, including popular entertainment, and he loves all things superhero. His vices include James Bond films, Mountain Dew and terrible B-grade movies. He’s married, has two children and a neurotic dog, runs marathons on occasion and hopes to someday own his own tuxedo. Feel free to follow him on Twitter @AsayPaul.