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Vice: Progressive Activist’s Dick Cheney Biopic Exists To Annoy Republicans

Vice: Progressive Activist’s Dick Cheney Biopic Exists To Annoy Republicans

Mission Accomplished

Adam McKay’s career trajectory has proved to be one of the weirdest a contemporary comic director has forged. Having launched his career into the spotlight with his inaugural effort Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgandy, he proceeded to attempt making lightning strike twice with four subsequent team-ups with Will Ferrell that all failed to fully recapture the success of that first film: Talledega Knights, Step Brothers, The Other Guys and Anchorman 2.

Then out of nowhere in 2015 he released The Big Short. The film was an unexpected hit with broad critical consensus that it had somehow managed to make an entertaining comedic satire about the 2008 financial crash. Out of nowhere, McKay had become a serious director.

A Biopic About Vice President Dick Cheney 

His followup to The Big Short was released Christmas Day. Vice is not an unexpected film for him to make. McKay is very publicly outspoken as a progressive activist who has endorsed multiple Democratic candidates including Bernie Sanders and John Kerry.

With Vice, McKay presents us with an attempt at broad satire designed to dig to the core of who he thinks the former Vice President of the United States actually is. In practice, it is little more than a gnat of a film. It exists to annoy conservatives and churn progressive disdain for the Bush administration by marching out a series of tired early 2000s liberal grievances as loudly and bombastically as humanly possible.

For the most part, I’m not inclined to be supportive of the former Vice President (granted I was only 13 when he left office so my context for some of these events is hazy), but if you were to take the film at face value, you would assume that the man was the grandest, most nefarious puppetmaster in the history of contemporary American politics.

There is no central concept at the core of Vice beyond blanket cynicism. The only insight the film shares in regards to understanding the public figure that is Dick Cheney is that he’s a power-mad tyrant who exists to make himself, his friends, and his movement stronger for its own sake.

At one point the film stops mid-sentence, and has Dick and Lynne Cheney quote lines from Richard III. In quoting Shakespeare’s most overtly evil and power hungry character whose quest for power is all consuming and destructive, McKay’s cynical game is laid bare.

The only life we get to see in this character comes from Christian Bale’s widely regarded central performance as the titular character. He finds a lot of character ticks and anachronisms in his performance that really give the sense that he’s put a lot of thought into Dick Cheney’s personality. Unfortunately, this excellent performance is undermined by the script’s seething contempt, and none of the other actors really deliver beyond him. Steve Carrel as Donald Rumsfeld and Sam Rockwell as George W. Bush are essentially playing SNL versions of their characters.

The Cynicism of Vice  

Vice doesn’t merely exist as a means of diminishing the former Vice President; it exists as a broader critique of the entire conservative movement.  The film uses its central character’s connections to everything from Fox News to DC lobbying to indict the entire conservative establishment.

There is a critical line in the film in which a young Dick Cheney asks a younger Donald Rumsfeld in the 1970s what it is that conservatives actually believe in. Rumsfeld proceeds to laugh uproariously at the notion that he believes in anything. Here lies the central critique at the core of the film. Vice propagates the notion that the entire conservative establishment is a cabal of rudderless liars who sell mistruths to the American people to trick them into voting conservatives into power.

The movie name-drops conservative think tanks like the Cato Institute and the Heritage Foundation and conservative pundits like Rush Limbaugh, while strategically dropping in brief clips of prominent conservative politicians like Ronald Reagan, Mike Pence, Donald Trump, and Jeff Sessions to draw a spirograph of sorts in which every bad thing conservatism has ever done can be connected to the entirety of conservatism.  Through this lens, the movie presents the idea that there is no sincerity to be found anywhere on the right.

I’d be inclined to agree that politics is far more cynical and cutthroat behind the scenes than many people realize. What’s cynical is that this movie seems to imply that the left’s side of the aisle is the opposite. Whenever we see progressive politicians they’re proposing bills for environmental change and civil rights. It’s one thing to say that politics is corrupting. It’s another thing entirely to say that politics is only corrupting your enemies.

Response to the Film 

The right has responded with widespread condemnation of the film, as conservatives like Ben Shapiro and Kyle Smith have written about the film and lambasted it at National Review Online. The movie has brought in a low $4.8 million at its premiere but is expected to improve somewhat as its lead performance builds Oscar buzz.

On the progressive film circuit, the film is essentially simmering at low burner right now. Beyond the shrinking crowd of progressives still fuming about the Bush administration more than a decade later, widespread leftwing interest in the film is lacking.

One could easily look at the film as a moderate failure and brush it off. That doesn’t matter though. Annapurna likely wasn’t expecting a blockbuster return for a Dick Cheney film being released on Christmas.

Like All The President’s Men, The Post, Blackkklansman, Truth, and Trumbo before it, the film exists to create the definitive version of the events that will stick in people’s minds. It doesn’t matter if the events are exaggerated, technically true, or outright forged. Vice exists to creates scenes that put the thought in your head that Cheney is nothing but cynical and corrupt and that, by extension, the entirety of the American right is unforgivably flawed, even dangerous.

In that sense, the film’s title Vice seems all the more appropriate. By conflating the title of Vice President with the concept of vice it draws the notation that Cheney’s reign was merely a writhing pit of power, lust, and abuse.

The Propagandistic Power of Cinema 

The way the film cuts images together in obvious ways is clearly intended as a method of building the audience’s reactions in such a way that you can’t help but associate Cheney with horrible things. For example, it shows images of people being tortured, dying brutal deaths, and suffering and then cuts that with footage of Dick Cheney fishing in a peaceful stream. The result creates the impression that Cheney is selfish and doesn’t care about the consequences of his decisions.

In scene-to-scene editing, the movie is constantly pulling such pretentious visual references out on cue.  In another example, the film cuts from Rumsfield to footage of a butterfly knife to impress the idea that he’s a skilled and cruel politician.

Vice is just as cynical and mean-spirited as the version of Cheney that McKay likely conjures in his head. A better version of this film would’ve been charitable enough to be humble and admit the sins of the left, too, or concede some level of humanity within its titular character.

Martin Scorsese is one of the greatest directors who has ever lived, and the gangsters and criminal scum he conjures in his films all have some level of humanity in between the moments of horror they perpetrate. By contrast, Vice is little more than a propagandistic gnat, easily squashed and disregarded by everyone . . . including those on McKay’s own side.

[Featured image via YouTube]


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Thank you for seeing it so I didn’t have to. Treat yourself to a showing of “Green Book”, which is a superb film.

    Or Mary Poppins Returns, which is a wonderful movie with a much more believable plot. (Seriously, they did it up right, which is rare for a sequel)

    Vice will not have a sequel. It barely registers as a movie, without a speck of reality other than the names of the characters. Leftists of all types will clutch their chests and sing praises to it, although most of them will not be able to sit through the whole thing, even if they’re willing to buy a ticket for the posturing aspect of their dinner parties. “Oh, yes. We enjoyed it greatly, particularly the dancing elephants.”

Colonel Travis | January 6, 2019 at 6:48 pm

Refuse to see this garbage, but I’ve never understood the left’s obsession with Dick Cheney – other than they had to invent a cartoon and use that to explain how everyone on the right supports all that is bad.

Leftist high thought:

Person 1: Cheney is Darth Vader
Person 2: OMG I know, right!

Honest-to-God idiots, all of them.

    MajorWood in reply to Colonel Travis. | January 6, 2019 at 7:32 pm

    For a long time I had an Obama colorized picture of Bullwinkle in my car rear window with “DOPE” as the caption. Cartoons work both ways. 😉

    RedEchos in reply to Colonel Travis. | January 7, 2019 at 3:34 pm

    They needed to vilify Cheney because they portrayed Bush as a trained monkey. How could Al Gore lose to a monkey? Had to be because Cheney was pulling his strings. He was the ‘external brain’ Bush needed.

President Trump must nominate Dick Cheney to a cabinet post to annoy Progressives and Democrats.

casualobserver | January 6, 2019 at 7:59 pm

You have to wonder if a considerable portion of the reported $60 million raised and spent to make this film that will never be returned was ponied up entirely for political and ideological reasons. Few such “investments” have ever paid out. So why would individuals and studio execs pony up for the umpteenth time otherwise? Like is said in this post, the more important value is to set the narrative with both the already convinced left and the lazy middle that doesn’t really pay attention. It’s not about a financial investment.

    I consider that 60 mil a Stupidity Tax, and am thankful that it has been taken out of the pockets of rich stupid people before they do something even dumber, like donate to a Dem presidential runner.

      casualobserver in reply to georgfelis. | January 7, 2019 at 8:02 am

      In way, these movies are in kind donations. It makes it even harder for the less motivated, less ideological to change their political minds. Or at least to do it publicly. Who wants to consider those evil, conniving, “other people” hating white supremacist wealthy Wall Street racists out to screw you? Not sure I got all of the impressions they are trying create…….I’m betting it comes up short. That’s especially true of college age kids. Not a chance many would defend anyone being poorly represented such as in this film. Not just on campus, but among their peers. They may think it. Few will admit it. Scarlet letter era we are in.

What makes them think any conservatives would watch it?

    casualobserver in reply to boulder. | January 6, 2019 at 9:03 pm

    I suspect if you were to ask any of the principles or donors they would say the independents are all that matter and that the toothless racist middle America Trump voters wouldn’t be smart enough to “get it” anyway. Or something equally disparaging.

This film reminds me of that awful, pseudo-thriller that Hollywood churned out a while back, attempting to do a John le Carre-type draping on the vile anti-Semite, Valerie Plame, simultaneously enlarging her alleged victim status, while mythologizing her work as a CIA drone.

These films are the worst type of propaganda — brimming with embittered partisan spite, devoid of any pretense of objectivity or attempt at factual accuracy, and, worst of all, thoroughly non-entertaining.

When liberals make films about people they hate based on what they think those people are really like, they always get it wrong. If the morons involved in this project had actually spent 10 minutes talking to Cheney, their little heads would have exploded.

No. It does not exist to annoy Republicans.

It exists to LIE about history. Just like a dozen other movies they’ve produced – their purpose is to distort the truth for younger people that weren’t there when it was happening.

Teachers are going to be showing this in schools in 10 years and discussing how evil Cheney and Bush were as a ‘historical fact’.

And we know why Bale “won” his award as “best actor”. And it wasn’t because he could manage to ditch his Brit accent to read his lines.

This movie definitely won’t be on my viewing list. All you have to do is read the title and subject matter, see the list of characters on the credits to know that the intent of this movie is to rewrite history for indoctrination purposes.

Did anybody see “Barry,” the biopic about the Bumbling Obamas in their years in the White House?

Episode One is when Mooochelle struggles to choose between her red spider-decorated dress and a wife-beater t-shirt in appearing at an event, and fires one of her 29 servants for not bringing enough food to her lunch. Meanwhile, Barack gets caught picking his nose at a press conference, and asks Eric Holder for advice on how he handled getting caught picking his nose on camera at a Senate hearing. If that wasn’t enough, Barack is advised hillary clinton was caught stealing more White House silverware.

Spider dress:

Wife-beater shirt:,+wife+beater+shirt&client=firefox-b-1-ab&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwid2cLGl9zfAhUG2FQKHbRhBv8Q_AUIDigB&biw=1280&bih=928#imgrc=R_0_OlhkE6wyDM:

Barry nose pick:

Holder nose pick:,+nose+pick&client=firefox-b-1-ab&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=univ&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwjPs4KwmNzfAhVmlFQKHelvB9kQsAR6BAgEEAE&biw=1280&bih=928#imgrc=UOdufBgs5cnCfM:

clinton stealing silverware:

Mission not accomplished. Didn’t see it, wasn’t interested in seeing it, or in their predictable, facile misrepresentations.

Aren’t they glad they lost Citizens United or they’d get sued for non-declared partisan contributions.