Written by: Matt Patti
VFW (Joe Begos, 2020) 2 out of 4 stars.
An overly violent, bloody, and stylized action thriller, Director Joe Begos’ VFW features a group of old war veterans that take on brain-dead drug addicts in an all-out slobber knocker … unfortunately with little story and even less sense. A bit too bloody and gory even for this horror fan, it surely delivers on the action/gore front, but there is little substance behind any of it, save for that little white substance everyone in the film is trying to get their hands on.
The film begins with an obnoxiously long opening-credits sequence in which we are shown flashes of scenes of people going crazy over a new drug in between black screen with red text highlighting contributors to the film. The drug lord, Boz (Travis Hammer), seems to have little sympathy for his newly formed addicts, even tossing the drug and watching the crazed mutant “Hypers”, as he calls them, run after it. Setting the plot into motion, a girl named Lizard (Sierra McCormick), breaks into Boz’s HQ, steals a large amount of the new drug, and bolts, much to Boz’s dismay. We then cut to a group of friends, who are all war veterans, hanging out in a bar at their local VFW (the obnoxious opening credits still rolling and intercutting with flashes of scenes at this point, which I found quite distracting). Soon, Lizard rushes through the door, pursued by a large army of the punk mutant Hypers along with Boz and his gang. The old veterans now must protect Lizard and fight off the Hypers and Boz to protect their VFW outpost.
My issues with this film start with the premise. I think the idea of old war veterans kicking butt is a fun one, and that was by far the highlight of the film. However, the why behind the what didn’t make sense to me. Why must these veterans protect Lizard, who rudely bursts into their outpost and brings a whole bunch of trouble with her? Any sensible person would get rid of her immediately. But if that happened, roll credits. Some vets throughout the film even question why they are helping her, but their inspirational leader, Fred Parras (Stephen Lang), always comes up with a new excuse that amounts to something like “it’s what we do, we protect people.” I found that notion absolutely ludicrous given the situation, and I felt like they owed her nothing, even with a shoed-in backstory that was created to make us feel sympathy for her.
The decision to help Lizard is the worst decision in the film, but not the only bad decision – those were aplenty. Most of the characters make very poorly informed, sometimes downright stupid decisions, especially the veterans, some of whom make such bone-headed decisions it made me wonder how they ever survived on the battlefield in a war. Seemingly riding along on the bad-decision train are the writer, editor, and presumably the director. Outside of writing the characters to make such poor decisions, the writer also gives the characters some truly terrible lines, which are either completely ineffective or made no sense at all. The editing choices in the film are strange, as well, with a cheesy loud synth sound playing when someone attacks and generic heavy rock/metal music playing during intense fight scenes, which lowers the tension.
There is some enjoyment to be found in VFW, though. If you can get past the questionable story, there are some good fight sequences, some good tension whenever it isn’t ruined by rock music, some highly-stylized, brutal deaths … if that’s your thing … and overall it was fun, yet unrealistic, to see old war vets take some young punks to school. The film is never boring and is very fast-paced. I’d say it would be a good popcorn action thriller to watch late at night with some friends, but that’s about it. It’s just disappointing in the fact that it could have been so much better, if not for the bad decisions by both the characters and the filmmakers.