You know those horror stories you always hear about casting calls? The ones with the outrageous, sexist, racist demands for actors and actresses? I think I just found the film responsible for about 90% of them.
I can see them now:
Need three busty Asian models: one to go topless for a party scene then get stabbed in the neck with a sword; the second to dress in leather S&M gear and torture people before getting stabbed in the stomach with a sword; the third to wear lacy panties and get into a bare-knuckle catfight with another model.
Need several Middle Eastern actors: must be fluent in Arabic languages and familiar with prop weapons. Must provide own Taliban costumes.
Need middle-aged woman to play mother of days-old newborn: must have six-pack abs and no body fat.
There is so, so much wrong with Christian Sesma’s Vigilante Diaries that it takes all my willpower to not just give my laptop screen a Thousand Yard Stare. It’s an unholy mess of a movie, ill-conceived, poorly though-out, atrociously executed. It’s like if somebody searched the word “problematic” on tumblr, gathered the results, and built a movie out of them. It’s stupid, clichéd, insensitive, exploitative, and worst of all, it just isn’t any fun to watch.
Desperate to imitate the quirk and self-reflexivity of Quentin Tarantino, Sesma tells a non-chronological story broken up into chapters (the parallels to Tarantino don’t end there—he even casts Michael Madsen in a completely inconsequential role where he pops up from time to time to do his best grizzled Mr. Blonde shtick). It begins as a straightforward superhero film: Paul Sloan plays The Vigilante, an ex-military crime-stopper who rivals The Punisher for caustic brutality and effectiveness. Unlike The Punisher, The Vigilante skyrockets to fame after starring in a series of web videos filmed by trust fund baby Michael Hanover (Jason Mewes). But instead of exploring the idea of a viral crime fighter and how it represents our current social media dominated zeitgeist, Sesma uses Hanover as a source of truly cringe-worthy comedic relief. Instead of giving Hanover an actual personality, he just makes Mewes play him like Jay of Silent Bob fame. Without the benefit of Kevin Smith playing the straight man, he comes across as an aggressively imbecilic, impossibly obnoxious douchebag. And the film can’t get enough of him.
Vigilante Diaries has less of a centralized story than it does the skeleton of an old adventure serial. The Vigilante, one of his friends, or one of his allies gets captured, and he, one of his friends, or his allies must rescue him/them. This happens about half a dozen times. Although I am impressed with the film’s ambition: it jumps between exotic locations—Mexico, Albania, London—with the abandon of a James Bond film. Some of the fight scenes are surprisingly fluid, shot with single, flowing takes. But then you notice the CGI blood splatter or the automatic guns that never need reloading and the whole experience is ruined.
Inexplicably, the film mutates from a standard revenge thriller—The Vigilante gets understandably peeved by all the kidnapping and murdering of his friends and family—and becomes a bizarre suspense film where the heroes must save the world from a series of dirty bombs planted in major cities. Then one of the major villains gets revealed as maybe being not so bad after all. A hero, even. But none of it flows cohesively, none of it makes any sense. The ending revels in a pompous sense of accomplishment, confident that it’s pulled the rug out from under the audience. Too bad that by then I suspect the average movie-goer would have already walked out of the theater. Or more likely, their living room. Because let’s be honest: this movie is never seeing the light of day again after its inevitable (and inevitably brief) VOD run. Good riddance.