Hard Vice

HARD VICE is a police procedural drama dirtied up to satisfy the direct-to-video market. Its two-dimensional characters and cliched situations are offset by snappy camera moves, pungent locker room dialogue, and some sneaky variations on the basic serial-killer-on-a-rampage plot. A killer is terrorizing Las Vegas, and suspicion falls upon a hooker whose...read more

Rating:

HARD VICE is a police procedural drama dirtied up to satisfy the direct-to-video market. Its two-dimensional characters and cliched situations are offset by snappy camera moves, pungent locker room dialogue, and some sneaky variations on the basic serial-killer-on-a-rampage plot.

A killer is terrorizing Las Vegas, and suspicion falls upon a hooker whose satisfied customers keep turning up dead. Cocky baseball player-turned-cop Joe Owens (Sam Jones) considers it a demotion when Chief of Police Bronski (James Gammon) teams him up with the Vice Squad triumvirate of Andrea

(Shannon Tweed), Bugs (Miguel Nunez), and Mike (Tom Fridley). Before Andrea and Joe eventually bury the hatchet between the sheets, the vice team's investigation draws them to the Bon Temps Escort Service, whose client roster may contain the name of the killer. The vice detectives suspect

upper-echelon pimp Tony Lazzari (Branscombe Richmond), overlooking another obvious candidate: their own Captain Bronski. Hesitant to rat on a cop, Mike keeps his gnawing suspicions about the Chief to himself; his discretion has lethal ramifications. Andrea and Joe later search the Chief's home,

where they discover a photo of the suspect hooker, as well as the comatose Mike.

Andrea and Joe close in on Bronski, trapping him in the call girl's motel room. Smitten, Bronski has been eliminating all her other regular tricks. Bronski accidentally shoots his beloved, grabs Andrea as a hostage, and heads for the roof. Joe follows and is wounded; Bronski shoots down a police

helicopter before falling to his death. That case is closed, but the team is still harassed by the vindictive Tony the Pimp.

Though sleazily atmospheric, HARD VICE feels like the unrated version of a made-for-cable TV pilot, especially given the open-ended finale involving Tony. Although direct-to-video movie regulars Jones and Tweed are attractive, they don't help the film achieve the erotic atmosphere it tries hard

to generate. (The percussive score is especially intrusive.) Actor-turned-director Joey Travolta freshens up the stale, cigar-smokey police barracks dramatics with flash forwards and jazzy camerawork, but he doesn't bother to camouflage the film's rampant sexism and homophobia. Although the script

endeavors to chisel out believable characters, their actions are often hard to swallow; plot contrivance counts for more than realism. (Graphic violence, extreme profanity, extensive nudity, sexual situations.)

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