By Andrew Buckner
Rating: ***** out of *****.
The world is in desperate need of laughter in our increasingly bleak times. Director Richard Griffin and screenwriter Duncan Pflaster provide just that with their latest collaborative effort: the rapid-fire hilarious Undercover Vice: Strapped for Danger Part 2 (2020). Griffin’s latest feature is on par with the massively entertaining original entry in this series, Strapped for Danger (2017), in every way. I cannot recall a single joke in the brisk 88-minute runtime of Undercover Vice that doesn’t land with either a smirk, a chuckle or a slew of knee-slapping guffaws. Even the quieter sight gags, such as one clever moment that utilizes a water cooler at twenty-six minutes into the work, are effective and well-done.
As has become a trademark with Griffin films, the piece has numerous jokes pointed at the private lives of Republicans. While this attribute is successful enough to add a personal political point-of-view to the piece, the endeavor does not linger too long on these bits. It simply adds its own perspective, as is the right of every artist, and moves forward with the tale. In an age where subtly seems to be a forgotten art, such actions are evermore admirable.
What is just as worthy of respect is that there is never a bitter flash in the entirety of the production. There are a few dramatic instances. But they play out in a manner which heightens the wonderfully tongue-in-cheek, joyously campy quality of the affair. A subplot involving a central figure getting his grandfather out of a nursing home is where many of these touches are mechanized. Regardless, the unabashedly quirky tone of the picture is never broken.
The plot involves two police officers, Andy (Sean Brown) and Kevin (Chris Fisher), who pose as porn stars to stop a ring of corruption involving a local politician. Pflaster gives this story life with dialogue that is endlessly smart and witty. Furthermore, there is an enviably quick and efficient pace throughout the entirety of the silver screen opus. This is largely due to Griffin’s masterful editing. There not a single unnecessary or overlong scene in the production. Such measures greatly compliment the jovial atmosphere of the project.
What also helps this matter is that every performance herein is gleefully pitch perfect. Brown and Fisher are brilliant with their endearing lead depictions. Sarah Reed is fantastic as Zooey. The same can be said of the respective turns of Sissy O’ Hara as Sister Dymphna and Samantha Acampora as Rebecca. Johnny Sederquist is always enjoyable as the delightfully named Pinata Debris.
Undercover Vice is bigger and grander than its predecessor. Still, its wonderfully intimate with just the right amount of character focus. Every frame is a visual feast for the eye. This is a courtesy of the marvelous, colorful cinematography from John Mosetich. It is as just as much a sonic smorgasbord with some truly excellent musical selections peppering the undertaking. This is especially noteworthy during the superbly constructed end credits. Yet, Griffin’s exercise is just as brilliant in sections such as the near two-minute opener of the chronicle. This sequence uses only voiceover dialogue to describe what is transpiring and the names of those participating in the article.
These elements come together to craft another inspired and dazzling masterpiece in Griffin’s cinematic canon. Undercover Vice is one of the funniest flicks in years. It is also one of 2020’s top-tier movies. Griffin has crafted another triumph of independent storytelling via the visual medium. Strapped for Danger Part 2 is a must-see.