Monday, 20 July 2009

Crouching Vampire, Hidden Fight Choreographer [Review: Blood: The Last Vampire]

The idea of a vampire film with the choreography of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon makes sense to me and I've been waiting a long time to see such a film. I'm still waiting. Blood: The Last Vampire is an enjoyable film in its own right and has a lot to recommend it but suffers from this particular comparison.

Blood is a very international movie. Set in Japan and filmed in Japanese and English, it brings together the considerable talents of French director Chris Nahon, South Korean, American-Italian and Japanese actresses Gianna Jun, Allison Miller and Koyuki, and Hong Kong producer William Kong who also produced on Crouching Tiger.

The three female leads are superb and each brings a different quality to their character: Gianna Jun has an alien beauty and is completely convincing as the vengeance-driven, unstoppable halfling Saya - I had no trouble believing that, were she not supplied with fresh blood by the mysterious Council this character would kill without hesitation to survive; Allison Miller's character Alice remains terrified by the paranormal world she has been drawn into - and significantly, despite learning to trust Saya, does not conquer this terror. Koyuki is suitably eerie as Onigen. Male supporting roles are less convincing although this may be about the plot rather than acting per se - this is not a film about men.

The fight scenes are O.K. but given producer William Kong's oversight should have been far better. The genius of Crouching Tiger was to make slightly impossible moves in early scenes, such as running up walls or flying from rooftop to rooftop, credible - the suspension of disbelief then continues through most of the movie even as the stunts get sillier. This kind of credibility is needed in Blood, particularly for the scenes where Saya faces down large numbers of enemies single-handed while defending petrified Alice. These scenes are exciting but not always convincing, and there's a tendency to speed up or slow down the footage that just confuses the action further.

And I know it's a long happy tradition but surely by now evil henchmen have realised that if you outnumber the hero 50 to 1, you kind of lose the advantage if you line up and take turns to fight them one to one.

On the plus side, there's a point where Alice revives Saya, Little Shop Of Horrors-style, that could have been extremely silly - it's a measure of the excellent general direction that the intensity is maintained even during scenes like this.

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