Review - Inherent Vice

Inherent Vice (2014), R, 148 minutes - I'm not familiar with Thomas Pynchon's novel of the same that is the basis for this film, but the trailer caught my eye with its kooky 'who done it?' feel, 1970's setting, and expansive cast led by Joaquin Phoenix.

At the urging of his ex, Shasta Fay Hepworth (Katherine Waterston), private investigator Larry 'Doc' Sportello (Phoenix) decides to look into the disappearance of real estate mogul Michael Wolfman (Eric Roberts). She was concerned about her lover's safety after having been asked by Wolfman's wife and her lover to join a plot to disappear him and split his enormous wealth. The plot only gets more convoluted from there, but pulls in Los Angeles Lt. Det. Christian F. 'Bigfoot' Bjornsen (Josh Brolin), a drug cartel known as the Golden Fang, the Aryan Brotherhood, and an undercover police informant (Owen Wilson's Coy Harlingen), among other things. Basically, along each step of his investigation, Sportello is hired by someone else to investigate something else. Little does anyone know, the cases are all related.

Phoenix's Sportello is pretty entertaining. A drug aficionado, he not only uses them, but takes advantage of what people are willing to say under their influence. Along with those already mentioned, the rest of the cast is full of recognizable faces, including Maya Rudolph (Petunia Leeway), Michael K. Williams (Tariq Khalil), Benicio Del Toro (Sauncho Smilex, Esq), Jena Malone (Hope Harlingen), Reese Witherspoon (Deputy D.A. Penny Kimball), and Martin Short (Dr. Rudy Blatnoyd, D.D.S.).

Inherent Vice is an amusing watch. It definitely has its funny moments, but I hesitate to classify it as a straight up comedy. It is more of a crime drama with its fair share of ironic moments. If that sounds like your sort of thing I would recommend it, although I'd probably wait for it as a rental considering the number of other excellent films in theaters right now.


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