V for Vendetta

Film
BUZZ KILL Portman is primed for fascist chic.
BUZZ KILL Portman is primed for fascist chic.

Time Out says

Digging those Constructivist-style posters screaming from billboards around town? (FREEDOM! FOREVER!) Or maybe it’s Natalie P.’s potty-mouthed gangsta rap on SNL that’s whipped you into a frenzy. Never underestimate the power of a hard sell: For all its fascist chic, V for Vendetta is lacking in exactly that quantity of articulated rage to function as rousing entertainment, much less agitpop. V for Vague is more like it.

The original graphic novel, written by Alan Moore (who’s taken his name off the adaptation), certainly invested its scary future London and masked phantom-of-the-Parliament terrorist with plenty of political heft. But the big-budget movie, produced and written by The Matrix’s Wachowski brothers, feels oddly neutered. The biggest problem is Portman, lovely as always and persuasively British, but hardly unhappy enough in her drab office existence and tragic parental back story to register as a bomber in the making. In order to work, the film needs to be about her awakening, but Portman’s playing it too cool.

John Hurt, such a fragile Winston in Michael Radford’s burnished Nineteen Eighty-Four, achieves cosmic payback as Vendetta’s Big Brother type, a constant shouter from huge video screens. And Hugo Weaving does vocal wonders when he’s behind the mask—which happens to be always. But apart from a few veiled Abu Ghraib references and a provocative line of dialogue or two (“People need hope more than a building”), the movie’s jubilant wreckage feels depressingly close to Independence Day’s. People need explosions more than hope, evidently. (Opens Fri; see Index for venues.)—Joshua Rothkopf

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