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Vindicta (2023) Review

Vindicta is Latin for vengeance, and as we can tell from the film’s opening scenes, central to the motive of a killer going about his bloody business. We know because after killing a pair of fire inspectors, they have a flashback to a woman and her son trapped in the building when it initially burned years before.

Lou (Elena Kampouris, My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2, Children of the Corn) has just finished training as a paramedic. Her boss, Rick (Sean Astin, The Goonies, Dead Ant) is reluctant to put her into the field due to the baggage she carries from her mother’s death. Despite only being nine at the time, she still blames herself. However, the city is in the midst of violent riots, and he needs all the help he can get.

While her issues over her mother’s death are concerning, I was more worried by her relationship with her father Patrick (Jeremy Piven, The System, RocknRolla). She still lives at home with him, is following in his footsteps becoming a first responder, and even has a bobblehead of him in her car. It’s just a little creepy.

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Director Sean McNamara (Dangerous Game: The Legacy Murders, Baby Geniuses and the Mystery of the Crown Jewels) and writer Ian Neligh (Hyde, The Thorn King) are anything but subtle in telling us Lou is somehow involved with the killer’s plans, as someone watches her as she takes a morning jog. A news report about the theft of several items from the Museum of Antiquities is another obvious bit of foreshadowing.

What’s not so obvious is what kind of film they thought they were making. On the one hand, Vindicta has strong slasher elements with its masked killer and bloody deaths, some of which have a Saw-like feel to them. There’s also a scene where the killer stalks Lou while she’s in the shower that is straight from Slasher 101.

But there’s also a lot of heavy-handed commentary about corruption in the city government. That in turn plays into a police thriller along the lines of Se7en with the killer using Medieval torture devices on their victims and leaving clues in Latin, which coincidentally enough Lou knows. She also speaks Mandarin, which comes in handy when the killer strikes at an Asian market. But it’s her ability to translate those clues, written in blood of course, for Detective Russo (Travis Nelson, Tucker and Dale vs Evil, Homemade Christmas) that puts her in a role resembling Brad Pitt’s Detective Mills.

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This might have worked if it wasn’t all so obvious with the frequent flashbacks spelling everything out for the viewer. Vindicta becomes a mystery with no real mystery. No, we don’t know the name of the person behind the mask, but it’s obvious who they are. Well, there is some mystery, how they know to be in the right place at the right time. Attacking someone in Chinatown doesn’t mean that the rookie EMT who nobody knows speaks Chinese will get the call.

Vindicta’s low budget also causes plenty of problems. The film is set in Seattle, but several exteriors were filmed in Vancouver, with the Space Needle very obviously added in. Other shots were obviously done on one set, making much of the city look identical, you can only see them pass the same walls with the same graffiti so many times without rolling your eyes.

The film’s kills are a mixed bag, there are some decent practical effects, a decapitation, a burn victim, and a guy with a spear through his head for instance. But there are some truly horrible CGI ones as well, including someone being burnt to death. Even worse, we get a flashback to the burning later. There’s even a hybrid shot that goes from unconvincing CGI to convincing practical aftermath.

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The last twenty or so minutes tosses all of Vindicta’s other plotting and turns into a full-on slasher. You know the killer isn’t really dead with that much time left in the film, and it’s no surprise when they aren’t the body in the bag. That leads to a final girl showdown in a conveniently deserted firehouse that’s quite good. There’s even a practical fire gag and spirited, if expected, bastardization of the one Latin phrase everyone knows.

The script should have focused on one element of the plot and gone with it. Instead, it frequently compromises itself trying to work with them all, with the final shot being probably the most ridiculous of them all. In trying to be all things to all people, it manages to be sporadically interesting but ends up satisfying no one.

Vindicta is available on VOD and Digital Platforms via Paramount.

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