Thursday, January 12, 2006

At the movies! BloodRayne

Learning of the truly dismal box office of BloodRayne on it’s opening weekend (opening at #19 [!], on 985 screens, making a bit more than $1.5 million for a truly pathetic under $1,600 screen average), Joe Bannerman suggested we run out and see Bloodrayne quickly, while it was still in theaters. While I pretty much can’t stand the vampires-in-leather-mixed-with-Matrix-style-kung-fu thing—well, OK, I generally liked the Blade films—I am generally more than disinclined to see stuff like this or the Underworld films, which look similarly dreadful. However, I’d yet to see a film by the legendary Uwe Boll, so I said sure.

Well, it was awful, but generally not in an interesting way. (And thus is the way of the bad film these days. Sigh.) Picking the film’s worst aspect is like choosing the wettest part of the Atlantic Ocean, but I’d have to say it’s most annoying quality was that there wasn’t a single original idea, performance or even solitary moment in the entire film. As well, it was tedious enough that perhaps an hour into its comparatively slender hour and a half length, I was wondering if we weren’t viewing some three-hour director’s cut.

Anyway, a highly embarrassed looking—and for good reason—Sir Ben Kingsley (thus the British Empire these days) is, like, The King of the Vampire or something, and he has a sword-slinging half-human/half-vampire daughter named Rayne, which apparently makes her a “damphir” or some such. She is out for revenge upon her father, who raped and killed Mama. Kingsley is after three body parts of a saint or whatnot that will grant the owner some vaguely defined powers which will allow him to, what else, rule the world. The search for these, I assume, was a goodly part of the video game the movie was based upon.

Rayne ends up teaming up with members of the Brimstone something or other, who are out to kill all the vampires and particularly Kingsley. The leader of this band is an epically bored-looking Michael Madsen, who appears pretty embarrassed to be here, despite the fact that he’s Michael Madsen. There’s also a pretty boy guy for Rayne to have sex with, and Michelle Rodriguez as, in a real stretch, a perpetually angry Hispanic woman. She fills the role of the One Who Doesn’t Trust Rayne.

Imagine a really cheap syndicated show, like perhaps the old Mortal Kombat TV series, that basically was a really bad rip-off of (primarily) those oldie-tyme flashback episodes of Angel. I assume this is meant to be an alternate universe, since despite it being set in Medieval Europe, nobody bats an eye at women walking around in skintight, midriff-baring leather bustiers and pants.

The script is awful, but the performances are worse. Boll obviously didn’t spend a minute working with any of the actors, which makes his at best pedestrian handling of the movie’s look and flow even more damning. The fight scenes, for instance, of which I believe there were several hundred, are all extremely dull and edited in that “none of our actors can remotely really look like they are fighting, so we’ll shake the camera a lot and cut to a new angle every half second” technique which is employed way the hell too much these days.

The vampires themselves are of the increasingly tiresome Buffy-type, who look normal until they go all demonic when attacking, and are not in any real way very super-powered, thus allowing for normal humans to grapple with and off kill of half a dozen of them in any given brawl. There are also so many of them around that I wondered there were any humans left.

About the only new wrinkle is that they not only can’t cross running water (a venerable piece of authentic folklore), or can die in water as a natural element, but in fact react to normal water like it were holy water; i.e., it burns them like acid. That would seem a pretty major drawback, since theoretically you could scald one to death by, say, pissing on them, much less make yourself pretty invincible by owning a kiddie pool and a turkey baster. Moreover, it made me wonder why the heroes later stock up on actual holy water, since the regular stuff seems just as deadly.

In any case, watching the various manners in which the actors choose how to be bad is about the only source of interest here. The worst performance is provided by veteran schlock actor and DTV star Michael Madsen, who again appeared so bored that he mumbled even worse than usual. He may have just been embarrassed by his horribly trite and anachronism-laden dialogue, but I’m sticking with the boredom thing. It’s like he couldn’t be bothered to inflate his lungs to more than 25% capacity before issuing his lines.

Pretty Boy Guy was utterly generic. Rodriguez can play the Perpetually Angry Hispanic Woman in her sleep, as she proves here. Kingsley looks like he’s praying that no one will ever see this movie (apparently Heaven owed him one), and I can only imagine he returned home at night and wept and wailed while clutching his Gandhi Oscar to his tear-sodden bosum.

Guest star players Meatloaf (!), appearing under his more refined stage name of Meatloaf Aday (really), elects to ham it up mercilessly. His Marquis de Sade-esque vampire character dies because he has a lot of stain-glassed windows in his bedchamber, which the heroes break to let in fatal beams of sunlight. Having seen several hundred vampire movies, let me offer the Undead some advice: Brick up your windows, you morons.

Billy Zane gets a “special appearance” credit, as in “special Olympics,” apparently. At this point in his career, Zane reminds me a committed stoner conducting a snarky experiment to learn how long he can keep his job while going to work totally high and ignoring his customers all day. To my eye, Zane long ago gave up even trying to act, and currently does everything but stick out his tongue and wink at the camera while doing his increasingly outrageous schtick. Even so, no doubt to his vast amusement, he keeps getting work. Pretty soon he’ll just be doing outright Charlie Callas impressions, interrupting his lines with nonsense sound effects. “You may tell the Dark Lord of the Vampires—Himph! Bzzzt!—that I foreswear his rule!”

Geraldine Chaplin, a veteran actress and ballet dancer who back in the day appeared in real movies, gives a not very convincing perf as a fortune teller, tongue firmly planted in cheek. Michael Paré (!) was in the movie for a short bit, but I didn’t even recognize him (despite his name being in the opening credits), although Joe did. Of the ‘stars,’ veteran nutbag actor Udo Kier probably does the best, mainly by sticking with playing Udo Kier, and because his role is so brief.

Titular star (in more ways than one) Kristanna Loken’s Cleavage plays the lead, and not very well, standing out as a non-entity even amongst this lot. Her casting as a robot in Terminator 3 proves to have been apt, and as Joe pointed out, her willingness to bare her boobs for an extended (and patently ridiculous) ‘love’ scene this early in her career indicates a quickly forthcoming detour into the sort of films one sees playing late nights on Cinemax.

Before the film we saw a preview for Boll’s upcoming Lord of the Rings knock-off In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale, which astoundingly looked much worse than even this film proved to be. Even the font used for the expository crawl looked cheap, like it had been done on a home PC. Given the incredibly low sums BloodRayne is pulling, I suspect the twin Dungeon Siege movies will be outright dumped directly to home video, barring some sort of contractual obligation ensuring a now doubt minimal theatrical release. In any case, don’t expect any future Boll offerings past that to actually hit theaters.


At 6:56 PM, Anonymous Prankster said...

I too am as yet untainted by Boll, but I've been assured that this is his "best" movie, which means it's still horrifically incompetent but nowhere near as entertaining as his other two. "Alone In the Dark" sounds like the funnest of the three, with a ludicrously long opening crawl and Tara Reid as the scientist so smart, she wears GLASSES.

By the way, the original "Underworld" (which I saw at, of all places, the Toronto Filmfest, which tends towards cult, foreign and otherwise artsier or edgier films--I think they were duped by the film's promoters) is very much a fun-bad, Jabootu-worthy film. Most of the entertainment value comes from the fact that every actor was apparently instructed to pretend they were a 14-year-old goth with severe constipation. Well, that, and the fact that the characters never do anything simply if they can instead employ some Rube Goldbergian scheme (like the gun that fires bullets full of sunlight(!!)) or else do it AS LOUDLY AS POSSIBLE. (Don't open the window, break it. Don't back away, leap snarling onto the ceiling. Etc.)

At 1:25 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"it was awful, but generally not in an interesting way"

That covers pretty much all of Uwe Boll's output. I'd still encourage you to see House of the Dead, winner of the Worst Use of Videogame Footage in the Middle of a Film award.

At 6:21 AM, Blogger Ken Begg said...

Joe had planned to show me House of the Dead following BloodRayne, as we hit an early show. However, after sitting through that I had to beg off. The appointment stands, though.

At 8:43 AM, Blogger Keith said...

House of the Dead does have the bit where a bunch of 20-year-old ravers suddenly reveal themselves to be kungfu masters with extensive working knowledge pertaining to a variety of military weaponry. That's gotta count for something.

When I was in college, taking a script writing class from some guy who'd never successfully sold a script, it was drilled in to our heads how hard it is to get a script bought and made into a film. Uwe Boll disproves this theory, and I'm interested to see just how long Boll can keep getting his movies released to theaters.

If you really want to brutalize yourself -- BloodRayne, Underworld 2, and Aeon Flux, one after th eother. Then go home and wash it down with the first Underworld film and Catwoman.


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