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V for Vendetta

Review Written by: Blade Le Flambeur
Film: C-
What the MPAA Rating should be: PG-13 (for bloody violence)

Directed by: James McTeigue
Written by: Andy Wachowski and Larry Wachowski
Produced by: Andy Wachowski, Larry Wachowski, Grant Hill and Joel Silver
Starring: Natalie Portman, Hugo Weaving, Stephen Rea, John Hurt, Stephen Fry, Tim Pigott-Smith, Rupert Graves
Studio: Warner Brothers Pictures

V for Vendetta marks the debut of James McTeigue, an assistant director to the likes of George Lucas and The Wachowski brothers who penned the screenplay. It's a dramatic, theatrical action/political film about a fascist society and one man's stand against it. It was based on a graphic novel by Alan Moore, who initially wrote it as an attack on the new rule of Margaret Thatcher in the early 1980s. However, both as an action film and a political message it stumbles and fails.

Evey Hammond (Natalie Portman) works as a humble citizen of the state who works in a television station. One night she is stopped by the police for passing curfew and is attacked and nearly raped. Fortunately for her, an enigmatic but gregarious hero named V (Hugo Weaving) comes to the rescue. The film begins to snowball from here, as V eventually lists Evey into helping him defeat the fascist society spearheaded by Chancellor Adam Sutler (John Hurt), who's basically Big Brother with a voice. Also on the case is weary Inspector Erich Finch (Stephen Rea), who's not quite convinced that V's a terrorist simply killing civilians. The film is full of dialogue and action alike, and contains less than subtle remarks concerning the current Bush administration. Unfortunately, this is where the film fails.

I do not let political feelings get in the way of analysing and reviewing film, but V for Vendetta is incredibly blunt and even hackneyed. There are several reasons why the swipes at Bush feel unnecessary and poor. For one, the Wachowski Bros. wrote the screenplay in the 1990s, so why would it contain references to Avian Flu, homosexual marriage, etc? And if based upon a graphic novel written in the early 80s, how does this fit in either? It doesn't and that is the fatal error. The filmmakers allow their own political opinions to hijack how they conceive and execute the premise. A flashback concerning a lesbian couple and their suffering doesn't fit in the film like it should, it feels tacked on to make another point. As an action movie, there's not much excitement either. There are plenty of slick visuals, but this alone doesn't make a good film. As many explosions and fights with the police as there are, this doesn't equate to action being driven by story.

Portman is a solid actress, but here she doesn't astound. She's given relatively little to do and must wait on the sidelines as V delivers monologue after monologue on how brutal the government is, how the situation came to be, etc. etc. Weaving, who rarely disappoints, is very much up to the task and provides some good natured if not jovial fun as the masked crusader. Rea, one of the often ignored actors of his generation, proves himself even if his role is limited. Hurt (who ironically starred in a 1984 adaptation of '1984') hams it up as Sutler, but it's merely another piece of the puzzle. The script feels muddled, cluttered, and too political. McTeigue goes by the books on how to shoot action sequences, frame the story, etc. It feels more like a Wachowski film.

V for Vendetta is a weak film. It has some impressive visuals and some exciting scenes, not to mention some rock solid supporting performances. These alone propel slightly above terrifyingly terrible, but that doesn't mean it's not awful.

Natalie Portman and Hugo Weaving (the latter hiding behind a mask) in V for Vendetta.
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