I? sorry I can? resist. It says V FOR VENDETTA on the credits and on the poster but for me this was strictly A FOR AWFUL. It was also B FOR BORING, C FOR CRAP, D FOR DIABOLICAL (or Dreary or Dull or Dire), E FOR EXECRABLE, F FOR?ell, actually I think I?l leave it there for now. With Hollywood blockbusters currently under fire from all quarters ?and the Oscars having gone almost universally to worthy people-dramas ?it? a shame that the first ?vent?movie of 2006 turns out to be such a dud of staggering proportions. It? also a shame because, beneath the cheap bluster and bad accents, V FOR VENDETTA has a story with a bit of mental muscle behind it, a comic strip fantasy which requires more than just the usual ?ham bam?histrionics of the genre. But in plundering the respectable end of the comics market ?the so-called ?raphic?novel sub-genre ?the makers of V FOR VENDETTA seem to have learned none of the lessons taught by THE LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN a couple of years ago. The reality is that there is so much wrong with V FOR VENDETTA on a very fundamental level that it? hard to know where to begin.

Let? start with the Wachowski Brothers. Still wiping the egg from their faces from the critical response to their two ultimately-unnecessary sequels to the still breath-taking MATRIX, the Wachowskis have opted to just provide the screenplay to this new effort. And it? beginning to look as if the original MATRIX was a bit of a fluke. The script for V FOR VENDETTA is appallingly leaden, full of clunky, half-baked dialogue, derivative action set pieces (and not enough of ?m at that), uneven characterisation and reams of snoozy plot exposition. The film is set in a near-future dystopic Britain where a mysterious masked Guy Fawkesian figure named V is committing terrorist acts ?he blows up the Old Bailey ?as a protest against the grey totalitarian regime ruled over by the ruthless Chancellor (Hurt). V rescues Evie (Portman) from the clutches of a group of would-be rapists and while she forges a curious fascination with the lethal vigilante, a sleepy-faced Police Inspector (Rea) is trying to track him down before a new atrocity can take place. November 5th is just around the corner?n

Sadly this is about all I can remember remember about this turgid affair. The film? sloppy narrative almost entirely fails to hold the attention and it? hard to give a damn about the fate of this bunch of completely unsympathetic, humourless characters. The performances are pretty lacklustre; Portman is hopelessly miscast and, as she trots out clich?fter clich?t? hard not to yearn for the near-Shakespearean dialogue George Lucas gave her in the three deathless STAR WARS prequels. My first real inkling that something was desperately not right about this movie was the embarrassing sequence where Portman dresses up as some Bonnie Langford-lite schoolgirl in an attempt to protect a corrupt clergyman. I have to say I have no idea what this scene had to do with what might loosely be referred to as the plot and it? the first of a number of lifeless, soulless sequences which seem to be utterly divorced from the main storyline ?such as it is. Huge Weaving plays V hidden behind a mask for the entire film (presumably so he can erase the movie from his CV and deny it ever happened) but he chooses to play the role with a plummy English accent which sounds a bit too much like Rowan Atkinson to allow the audience to accept him as some mysterious, philanthropic freedom fighter. The normally-reliable Stephen Rea looks perpetually bored, Stephen Fry as a haunted TV host looks horribly uncomfortable with his clumsy dialogue ?watch out too, if you chose to take a chance on this disaster of a movie, for the scene where Fry and Portman watch a telecast of his character? latest chat show. Your jaw may shatter as it hits the floor at the sheer awfulness and heavy-handedness of the scene.

So we have a rotten script, half-hearted performances. What could salvage this mess? Well, director James McTeigue tries to invest the material with some visual flair and there are a couple of interesting moments which briefly perk the interest but frankly they?e few and far between. Lively action sequences book-end the movie ?the last ten minutes, with hordes of V-masked protesters sweeping through London, V? gory battle with a bunch of security guards and a special effects tour-de-force involving a Major London Landmark live longer in the memory than anything else ?but it? all far too little far too late.

I? not familiar with the graphic novel source material so I? not able to comment on whether the movie is even remotely true to its origins but the film? major problem, notwithstanding its source material, is that, for a big budget multiplex movie, it tends to look a bit cheap. This may, of course, be because we?e not used to seeing a big, broad, comic-strip style movie set in drizzly, grey Britain. We?e used to seeing our heroes battling it out in Los Angeles sunshine or framed against familiar American landmarks. Men in trenchcoats skulking about London back-alleys and characters prowling around grim British housing estates just doesn? look cinematic and it doesn? look expensive. V FOR VENDETTA looks too ?ow?to convince as a near-future vision of Britain and while some pace-shattering scenes in the middle of the movie ?where Evie is captured and tortured and we?e forced to endure the dreadful life-history of some character we?e never met ?evoke the look of 1984, the overall impression is of an underfunded 2005 feature film trying hard to look futuristic but without the wit or imagination to pull it off.

So there you have it. V FOR VENDETTA. Wait? FOR TWO HOURS OF MY LIFE I?L NEVER GET BACK, THANKS. That more or less sums it up. Ghastly.

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