Film Review: VICE (USA 2018) ****

Vice Poster

The story of Dick Cheney (Christian Bale), an unassuming bureaucratic Washington insider, who quietly wielded immense power as Vice President to George W. Bush, reshaping the country and the globe in ways that we still feel today.


Adam McKay


Adam McKay

Expect the unexpected from Writer/director Adam McKay.  VICE could stand for the evil that men do or the word before President, the office which Dick Cheney attained.  He was Vice-President of the U.S., and arguably the most powerful one in history while having quite a few vices in his character like drinking uncontrollably.

McKay wraps up plenty of surprises in his anything-may-happen bio on Dick Cheney.  Credits come on around the hour 15 minute mark.  The film has not ended then but if one leaves, then the story could have ended there.  But it goes on with full credits given at the end.  There is narration too, from Jesse Plemons, who speaks to the camera.  One wonders what he has todo with the story.  To tell you more would spoil the surprise, but he has quite a bit to do with Cheney’s life.

McKay’s cast is fantastic.  Christian Bale gained 40 pounds froth Cheney role and the make-up to allow him to age in an unhealthy manner is convincing.  A Best Actor Nomination is definitely in the works here.  Steve Carrell plays the unliked Donald Rumsfeld with all the sinister relish he was muster.   It is surprising to see Tyler Perry inhabit the role of conscience bearing Colin Powell who finally resigned from the Administration.  Oscar Winner Sam Rockwell (from THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIE EBBING MISSOURI) is almost unrecognizable as President George W. Bush, portraying him as a conniving no-good human being (which he is).

Everything unpleasant one has heard in the news on Dick Cheney is in the film – including the so-called hunting accident when he shot his hunting friend – from his university drunken days to the vice-presidency.  His university drop out is recorded and so is the impetus for his ambition in politics.  This is a very meticulously crafted scene, which the audience hopes actually took place.  His wife, Lynne (Amy Adams) gave him an ultimatum calling him a ‘fat drunk’ in the process.  Cheney succeeds in the change.  McKay also documents the couple’s loyalty to the Democratic Party, and for former President Richard Nixon.  For this unfamiliar or who dispel politics, there is still much to appreciate in McKay’s VICE,  For one McKay is a very resourceful and talented director and if not surprising the audience is updating the story to his skewed lenses.

The film includes a segment on the gay sexual orientation of Cheney’s younger daughter Mary (Alison Pill).  Cheney was shown willing to give up his career for her.  This segment gives me some respect for the man I never liked.  This is thus an important part in the life of the Cheney family which McKay is wise enough to include.

McKay is clearly against the evils executed by the Bush Administration primarily the War  on Iraq.  He inserts lots of images of innocent victims from Asia and Iraq.  He also mocks the Unitary Executive Power that the Administration had and used to approve any proposals.

VICE is the second film made on the Bush Administration after Oliver Stone’s W.  McKay has made a powerful bio on Dick Cheney but one not without his biting humour.



Happy Birthday: Adam McKay

adammckay.jpgHappy Birthday director Adam McKay

Born: April 17, 1968 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA

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Movie Review: THE BIG SHORT (US 2015) *****

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the_big_short_posterTHE BIG SHORT (US 2015) ***** TOP 10
Directed by Adam McKay

Review by Gilbert Seah

Based on the best-selling novel of the same name by Michael Lewis, THE BIG SHORT describes several of the key players in the creation of the credit default swap market that sought to bet against the collateralized debt obligation (CDO) bubble and thus ended up profiting from the financial crisis of 2007–2010. But the film mainly highlights the eccentric nature of the type of person who bets against the market.

It should be noted that many of the characters in the book have their names changed – to protect the innocent or the guilty, as the case may be. The Jared Vennett character played by Ryan Gosling and the Mark Baum character played by Steve Carell have been changed from the Greg Lippmann and Steven Eismann characters respectively. Others like Dr. Michael Burry (Christian Bale) have remained unchanged while Brad Pitt’s Ben Rickert has been changed from Ben Bockett. It is also strange that Adam McKay, a director known for his outlandish comedies like ANCHORMAN and THE OTHER GUYS be chosen to make this film based on such a serious topic. The housing credit bubble burst cost millions of Americans their jobs and houses. But it is a good bet. No ordinary person would like to see a depressing film about the Ameggedon of the U.S. housing market. McKay makes the whole enterprise hilariously off-beat, so unless one has actually been burnt, severely by what has been described, THE BIG SHORT is one hell of a ride!

For those not well versed in the world of finance, THE BIG SHORT might be too technical. But the film is not without its entertainment value. McKay explains certain terms with great humour. If one is uncertain on what mortgage credit is, he uses Margot Robbie (playing herself) to explain the term while drinking champagne in a bubble bath. McKay also uses Selena Gomez (again playing herself) to explain the various type of CDOs (Collateralized Debt Obligation) while handed a ten and a seven at a Blackjack table in Las Vegas.

There are characters in the book left out in the film. No complaint here, as the film already runs over two hours. But now wonders what magic can be added with the interesting character of Eugene Xu, a quantitative analyst who created the first CDO market by matching buyers and sellers.

The filmmakers have assembled a more than apt and impressive cast. For one, Burry’s character, a true one is an ex-neurologist who created Scion Capital despite suffering from blindness in one eye and Asperger’s syndrome. One can see what attracted Christian Bale, who appears to be having a field day, to accept this role. Brad Pitt, barely recognizable with glasses and a goatee plays the anti-hero admonishing his two proteges that they should stop dancing after making so much money for the fact that people have lost their jobs and homes a s result. Carell and Gosling also add to the festivities.
For a film based on the worst financial disaster, director Adam McKay and gang might even make the losers shed a tear or two of laughter. An amazing film with an amazing treatment of the material.

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