Dismal and misbegotten, Vanquish begins as if it wants to tell the story of a corrupt former police commissioner (Morgan Freeman) who resides in an alarmingly modern home and who must live out his remaining days in a wheelchair as the result of a shooting.
But writer/director George Gallo has other things in mind. As it turns out, the movie's most important character is played by Ruby Rose. She's Victoria, a former assassin who Freeman's Damon helped to get out of jail.
Not surprisingly, Victoria wants to begin a steadier, less-lethal life, mostly for the sake of her young daughter.
Damon insists that before Victoria can start anew, she must “hit” a series of targets. So, he kidnaps her daughter, refusing to release the child until Victoria completes her tasks.
Damon uses body cameras to watch Victoria at work. He also presides over a ring of corrupt police officers who have enriched him and themselves.
In style and atmospherics, Vanquish tries be sleek, modern, and wearily cynical, an ode to a female warrior who uses her foul trade to free herself from it.
But forget all that, Vanquish is what a late acquaintance who happened to be a highly skilled collector used for items he rejected.
"Crapola,'' he would say, a word not recognized in many cinema-study course, but still ...
Anyway, let’s shift gears:
Years ago, Pauline Kael wondered whether Freeman hadn’t become American’s greatest actor.
Beginning with his appearance as a New York pimp in Street Smart (1987), it was clear that Freeman had a rare gift for mercurial mood shifts, as well as a charismatic presence that could be used to suggest either imminent danger or comforting consolation.
His deep, mellow voice could convey trust and reliability in commercials and also was put to use in Driving Miss Daisy (let’s skip the discussion about the retrograde nature of the material) and even in Million Dollar Baby, a movie that earned him a best supporting actor Oscar.
Every actor's career is a mixture of choice, chance and any number of other variables over which the actor has little or no control.
At 83, Freeman deserves a signature role that puts his talent to full use, that lets him soar. And we need it as much as he does, which is another way of saying the movies need it, too.
Perhaps Hate to See You Go, a movie about an aging blues musician that IMDb lists as in pre-production, will give Freeman that role, one that long will be remembered after Vanquish has disappeared.