'Vice' casts Christian Bale as Dick Cheney in irreverent satire

Whatever the line between prestige HBO film and theatrical movie, "Vice" -- an irreverent look at former Vic...

Posted: Dec 17, 2018 9:17 PM
Updated: Dec 17, 2018 9:17 PM

Whatever the line between prestige HBO film and theatrical movie, "Vice" -- an irreverent look at former Vice President Dick Cheney -- doesn't entirely bridge it. Buoyed by strong performances -- including an unrecognizable Christian Bale and Amy Adams as Cheney and his wife Lynne -- the movie ultimately seems too pleased with itself, bringing only marginal insight to its admittedly secretive antihero.

Bale will undoubtedly garner well-deserved accolades for the role -- he's already received a Golden Globe nomination, one of several for the film -- not only approximating Cheney's gravelly voice, but practically disappearing underneath the astonishing makeup.

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Then again, the movie meticulously replicates all the Bush administration officials, including Cheney's longtime confidant Donald Rumsfeld (Steve Carell), George W. Bush (Sam Rockwell) and Colin Powell (Tyler Perry).

The main problem is that "Vice" seems to want to have it both ways -- at times playing like a straightforward biography, at others, a broad and lacerating satire. Unlike its driven protagonist, the movie can't seem to make up its mind as to precisely what it wants to be.

So while there are funny, irreverent bits, they can feel a bit jarring -- or overly precious -- when juxtaposed with more sober moments that exhibit Cheney's contradictions, including his genuine partnership with his wife and acceptance of his daughter Mary (Alison Pill) when she comes out as a lesbian.

Perhaps foremost, "Vice" feels as if it's spinning its wheels until Cheney gains that title, after Lynne seeks to dissuade him from being Bush's running mate by reminding him that he has always said vice president is "a nothing job." Informed by his belief in the Unitary Executive Theory -- a rationale for expanding presidential powers -- Cheney assumed a larger portfolio than other vice presidents, manipulating the cheerfully upbeat Bush into ceding authority to him.

That dynamic is best captured by the Sept. 11 terror attacks and their aftermath, and director Adam McKay isn't subtle about accentuating the fallout from Cheney's reaction or the collateral damage that ensued due to the tactics employed after that crisis.

Reunited with Bale and Carell, who he worked with on the splendid "The Big Short," McKay knows his way around the nexus of ruthlessness and power, portraying both in the context of Cheney's bare-knuckled approach to politics.

First, though, he goes back to 1963, when Lynne pressures a young, then-directionless Dick to clean up his act, eventually leading to his relationship with Rumsfeld, who schools him in the ways of Washington.

There's much to admire spread throughout the film, from Bale and Adams' central performances to a closing-credit sequence that overtly addresses the notion that this is just another anti-Republican screed from liberal Hollywood, likely to be dismissed by conservative detractors.

Still, most of the good choices are offset by a questionable one, including the device of having the whole movie framed by an omniscient narrator (Jesse Plemons) whose role only becomes clear near the end.

"Vice" thus feels like less than the sum of its parts -- despite the outward trappings of a classy, impeccably cast exploration of Cheney's guarded life and political career. It's a character study of a man imbued with a guiding vision of his own greatness that, finally, yields a somewhat scattered, just-OK movie.

"Vice" premieres Dec. 25 in the US. It's rated R.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

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Cases: 296745

Reported Deaths: 6783
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto19731230
Hinds18881393
Harrison16780282
Rankin12787265
Jackson12643229
Lee9703161
Madison9484203
Jones8005147
Forrest7250138
Lauderdale6847227
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Lamar590980
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Washington5229130
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Warren4138115
Pontotoc410771
Marshall404492
Monroe3993128
Union396474
Neshoba3822170
Lincoln3564104
Hancock350277
Leflore3389119
Sunflower319286
Tate303374
Pike301796
Scott295271
Alcorn292463
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Itawamba290275
Coahoma282069
Tippah279565
Copiah279259
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Leake253172
Marion252778
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Newton231252
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Tishomingo212965
Attala206870
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Holmes182770
Clay179251
Stone173029
Tallahatchie171439
Clarke169672
Calhoun158528
Smith153033
Yalobusha145536
Greene127933
Walthall124540
Noxubee123131
Montgomery122939
Perry122235
Lawrence120621
Carroll119025
Amite112235
Webster111132
Jefferson Davis102731
Tunica99523
Claiborne99129
Benton93924
Humphreys93027
Kemper90423
Quitman77414
Franklin76219
Choctaw69817
Jefferson62827
Wilkinson62427
Sharkey49117
Issaquena1676
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Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 498076

Reported Deaths: 10094
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson716711387
Mobile36294737
Madison32616468
Tuscaloosa24340421
Montgomery22739519
Shelby22174218
Baldwin19873289
Lee15039157
Calhoun13832293
Morgan13753254
Etowah13390325
Marshall11448211
Houston10124264
Elmore9483190
Limestone9420138
St. Clair9022227
Cullman8984182
Lauderdale8612214
DeKalb8489175
Talladega7606165
Walker6585259
Jackson6545104
Autauga632492
Blount6236127
Colbert6001121
Coffee5264103
Dale4671107
Russell406933
Franklin399878
Covington3993106
Chilton3898103
Escambia379173
Tallapoosa3622143
Clarke344053
Chambers3431111
Dallas3422142
Pike293373
Marion288695
Lawrence284985
Winston258368
Bibb246160
Geneva240370
Marengo238857
Pickens225457
Barbour213651
Hale212269
Fayette202057
Butler201466
Henry183541
Cherokee178039
Monroe166739
Randolph164840
Washington156836
Macon147745
Crenshaw146255
Clay145954
Cleburne139841
Lamar133733
Lowndes132751
Wilcox122925
Bullock117336
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Perry106127
Sumter99732
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Greene88532
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