Matt Adcock at the cinema: Inherent Vice review

Joaquin Phoenix in Inherent Vice
Joaquin Phoenix in Inherent Vice

Welcome to Inherent Vice, an insanely over-the-top thrill ride trip that takes Thomas Pynchon’s head spin of a novel and writes it larger than life on the big screen thanks to the full creative genius of director Paul Thomas Anderson, writes Matt Adcock.

For those interested, inherent vice is defined as ‘the tendency in objects to deteriorate because of the fundamental instability of the components of which they are made.” That doesn’t apply here though because this cinematic Inherent Vice is a supremely crafted, compellingly acted and altogether mind-bendingly brilliant oddball adventure.

Private detective Larry ‘Doc’ Sportello (Joaquin Phoenix) finds himself in all sorts of trouble when his sexy ex-girlfriend Shasta Fay Hepworth (Katherine Waterston) shows up looking for his help.

Seems there are some shady goings-on with her boyfriend Mickey Wolfmann (Eric Roberts), who might be in danger of being kidnapped in a plot by his wife Sloane Wolfman (Serena Scott Thomas) and her lover Riggs Warbling (Andrew Simpson).

It all goes downhill from there. As Doc investigates he becomes aware of an evil underworld organisation called the Golden Fang, crosses paths with Aryan Brotherhood/Black Power gangs, hitmen, lawyers, hookers and Lt Detective Christian F. ‘Bigfoot’ Bjornsen (a career best turn from Josh Brolin).

While the plot might befuddle (it’s up there with Hunter S. Thompson’s Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas in terms of psychedelic craziness), the dark humour brings quality laughs and they do come thick and fast.

Inherent Vice is a unique cinematic experience and the narrative bounces around all over the place, yet Phoenix holds it all together and is just stunning in the lead role. The relationship between Bigfoot and Doc is awesome – an uneasy alliance between hard-boiled cop and dope-loving free spirit is memorably iconic.

Shot through with pathos, sexy drug-fuelled madness and the occasional flash of violence, Anderson is at the top of his game. It stands as a groovy piece of cinema that you’ll want to see as soon as possible, man.