Reviewed by Zobo With A Shotgun
After the blood-drenched success of his Frightfest-favourite film Bliss, there was no surprise that it didn’t take long for director Joe Begos to fire back with another drug-fuelled frenzy. VFW is the latest film from the director and has been on the tip of everyone’s needles, just waiting to see what madness Begos would bring to the screen agan. With a killer cast that is highly recognisable, a neon-lit backdrop and a crazed crowd, what could go wrong with VFW? Surprisingly more than you would expect.
The world has gone mad for a drug that turns even the most normal human into a drug lusting zombie that will go to any horrific length in order to obtain their next hit. Amidst this addicted society is a group of veterans and long time friends, who keep their veins clean and stay away from any involvement in the drug. But one night at the bar owned by the leader of the gang, they are forced to fight against the hoards after one young girl steals the local drug lords drugs and takes shelter in their watering hole.
Begos heads up his film with a cast that cannot easily be dismissed; the owner of the bar entitled VFW and leader of the group is Stephen Lang known for his recent role in Don’t Breathe and more classic role in Tombstone. Then we have Fred Williamson who was in From Dusk Til Dawn, William Sadler from Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey, David Patrick Kelly from The Warriors, Martin Kove from The Karate Kid movies and George Wendt from TV show Cheers. It’s a cast that for many audiences will be highly recognisable, and for others, not so much. But it does create an aspect of familiarity with them and feeling like we have already formed a connection with the characters we see on screen. The problem is that they are not utilised to their full potential, and all feel a little indifferent in terms of the dialogue they say to one another and the way they act. There is nothing that particularly stands out about any of them. The most memorable performance is from Dora Madison Burge (who played Dezzy in Bliss) and she barely has any screen time.
It became quite clear from Bliss that Begos has an affinity for heavy metal soundtracks that pierce not only the ears but also the soul – transforming the viewing experience into something more visceral and sensual. VFW certainly has elements of that throughout the film, but almost overuses the heavy 80s synth to a point where it becomes difficult to understand the dialogue and doesn’t give you a moment to breathe. Perhaps the aim was to create this sense of claustrophobia and being overwhelmed, which if was the case has been achieved exceptionally well – but for me felt too intrusive and didn’t allow for down periods to build the tension through the use of music and background noise. Similarly, the visuals were difficult to comprehend at times with the lighting also feeling a little overwhelming and intrusive, but again, if this were the desired effects of the movie then it has been exceptionally achieved. Both of these elements could also stand to create a parallel of feelings between the viewer and the drug addicts; confusion, distortion and sensory overload – but it does make watching the film more intense and difficult.
The overall plot of the film is quite tedious and never seems to amount to anything more than just some old guys in a bar fighting off some drug addicts. Even though there is the basis for more depth to the characters and the storyline, it doesn’t ever go there and as soon as the film starts, dives into the violence and frenzy from the get-go. From the beginning ten minutes of VFW until the end of it, we’re just witnessing some old age pensioners shoot the shit whilst slaughtering everyone and anyone that comes near their bar because they don’t want to hand back the drugs that were stolen. VFW doesn’t hold any depth to it and left me feeling incredibly bored within the first act, a feeling which continued until the last minute of the third act.
There are some redeeming features of VFW that make it watchable and most likely an exhilarating and violent action film for the most part. As a gorehound, there is an incredible amount of blood seen on screen and some gnarly deaths including an axe to the head scene which happens within moments of the film starting. The clear problem that I was faced with during the film is that my affinity for action films doesn’t exist, and therefore this didn’t appeal to me in the slightest. However, VFW is going to appeal to many generations who love to watch redemption at the hands of highly respected men and revel in the gritty, grimy feel that comes with every over-the-top shot to the body.
VFW is 92 minutes of pure action, violence and head-exploding carnage which will appeal to those who are thrill-seekers of the nothing but fun genre. This is not a film with depth and personality, but more a homage to some of the most-loved and gory action movies ever made; which with beers and friends could appeal to even someone like me who detests action films.
Verdict: 2 out of 5