Film Reviews: Another true story of malicious meddling

VICE (15) Written and directed by Adam McKay, whose previous film The Big Short brilliantly dramatised the 2008 global financial crisis, Vice nervously prowls the corridors of power in Washington DC to satirise another true story of malicious meddling and unabashed self-interest.

Tuesday, 22nd January 2019, 13:49 pm
Updated Tuesday, 22nd January 2019, 13:53 pm
Undated film still handout from Vice. Pictured: Christian Bale as Dick Cheney and Amy Adams as Lynne Cheney. See PA Feature SHOWBIZ Film Digest. Picture credit should read: PA Photo/STX Financing, LLC./Annapurna Pictures, LLC/Matt Kennedy. All Rights Reserved. WARNING: This picture must only be used to accompany PA Feature SHOWBIZ Film Digest.

"Or as true as it can be given that Dick Cheney is one of the most secretive leaders in history," quips an opening title card, which establishes the irreverent tone of a breakneck tour through chapters of recent history including the Gulf War and the September 11 attacks. For the opening hour, Vice is a briskly paced and engrossing portrait of ambition, electrified by an Oscar-worthy performance from Christian Bale, who gained 40 pounds to portray Cheney. The Haverfordwest-born actor completes his startling transformation with more than 100 pieces of prosthetic make-up to replicate the jowls, jaw line and distinctive nose of his subject, who served as vice president to George W Bush between 2001 and 2009. 

THE MULE (15)

Clint Eastwood refuses to follow Robert Redford's lead and glide serenely into self-imposed retirement as he directs and stars in a gently paced thriller inspired by an outlandish true story of opportunistic criminal enterprise.

Adapted for the screen with an exceedingly heavy hand by Nick Schenk, who penned Eastwood's 2008 drama Gran Torino, The Mule relies on its leading man to inject life into a plodding tale of fractured families and economic strife.The 88-year-old Oscar winner duly obliges, investing his politically incorrect old coot with rascally charm and old-fashioned grit, which allows a fallen family man to ferry hundreds of kilos of cocaine across Illinois without arousing the suspicions of law enforcement.

Schenk's linear script hammers home the lead character's failings as a husband and father with the subtlety of a battering ram to a rickety wooden door, engineering pointed and frosty conversations between family members.

The trickle of bad blood is neatly and conveniently staunched before the end credits roll, suggesting that crime pays to salve deep emotional wounds.