This vampire vs werewolf film ticks all the boxes for what should be an entertaining romp:
- Mysterious historical conflicts
- Lots of guns and explosions
- Pretty girls
- Bill Nighy
However somehow it doesn’t quite come together as I had hoped. It is reasonably entertaining but all feels rather superficial and even in the grand action sequences I found myself distractedly checking my emails or reading articles on the internet.
There are heavy and very obvious influences from The Matrix and similar movies: lots of guns, running up walls, jumping off buildings and slow motion acrobatics. Oh, and the leading lady spends much of the film in a PVC catsuit. Released around the same time as the last 2 Matrix films (after 2 and just before 3 in 2003) I can’t avoid the suspicion that it is trying to cash in on the Matrix style and unfortunately it doesn’t measure up very well.
Many of the actors don’t seem very comfortable in their roles and unfortunately Kate Beckinsale is one of them. Casting Bill Nighy as a kick-ass vampire elder seems like genius but I found that I just couldn’t get his more down to earth roles in films like Hot Fuzz and Love Actually which just ended up being distracting. Many of the lines feel like they were delivered to camera in isolation rather than as part of a believable interaction between characters. It will be interesting to see if the second film feels any more natural.
Towards the end of the film there are a lot of set-piece action scenes with lots of gunfire and explosions which should be pretty exciting and dramatic. However there is a lot of confusion and since a lot of the action is between extras we have never seen before and who are all dressed in similarly drab militaristic gear fighting in poorly lit tunnels, it is very tricky to tell who is shooting who. The battle scenes often seem to consist of cannon fodder running into the path of oncoming fire and then hamming up their death scenes and a lot of it just feels like padding. Padding is unnecessarily really in a film that is already almost two and a quarter hours long.
While talking about action, it is worth mentioning for anyone sad like me who likes to count the bullets fired and point out when people keep firing after they have run out of ammo: don’t bother in this movie, your friends and loved ones will expel you from the room before the first 10 minutes of the film are over. It would take longer than the length of the film to list all the firearms related continuity errors like semi-automatic hand guns firing fully automatically (or in many cases obviously being fired semi-auto but sound and visual fx giving the impression of full auto), firing hundreds of rounds from a 20 round magazine before re-loading etc. This film obviously doesn’t care and as a viewer neither should you, just relax and enjoy the romp, or go and watch Black Hawk Down or something like that instead. Check out the imfd page for this movie if you want to know far more about the guns in it than is healthy!
The way the film develops is actually quite interesting with a reasonable plot involving thousand year old feuds and war between immortals. As the film progresses you start to re-evaluate who is the good side and who is bad and this question is left interestingly morally grey.