With Dada Chen at NYAFF 2013
Saturday, July 11, 2009
ACF 234: Blood: The Last Vampire
Blood: The Last Vampire opened yesterday. As regular readers know, my policy is to post a review on or before a films theatrical release, but obviously I'm a day late in this case. It's particularly unfortunate because I had seen an advance screening of the film and subsequently had a chance to talk with Bill Kong, one of the film's producers. (Abel Nahmias is the other producer.) Among the films that Mr. Kong has previously produced are Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (which I rank tied for #1 with Seven Samurai as my favorite Asian film of all time) and Hero, which is also terrific.
The delay in my review - which even now will have to be a short one - is that I'm moving out of my apartment, and have to be gone by July 15th, instead of the 30th, as I'd expected. So it's been a crazy, hectic time.
On the other hand, the delay has meant that I've had a chance to read the reviews in the Village Voice and The New York Times, both of which, shall we say have been less than laudatory. In both cases, I think these reviewers have been less than fair to the film.
In case you're not familiar with it, this film is a live-action, English language remake of a very fine Japanese anime of the same name from a few years ago. Both start with an opening sequence set on a subway train in which Saya (here played by Korean star Gianna Jun in her first action role) kills a vampire. Thing is that though she looks like a teen-ager, she's something like 400 years old and is 1/2 vampire herself, on her mother's side.
Similarly, the main action then shifts to a U.S. air field in Japan in the early '70's. On and around the base are a slew of vampire demons that need to be dispatched, something that Saya excels at.
One of the main differences between the anime and this live-action version is that in the original, the secondary female character was an adult nurse. The new film features Alice McKee as Allison Miller, the daughter of the base commander and a student in Saya's class. This gives the demon hunter a peer to play off of.
Chris Nahon, whose previous works include the Jet Li vehicle Kiss of the Dragon directed, and Corey Yuen, whose credits are legend, served as action director.
The Village Voice and The New York Times, and perhaps other reviews I haven't read, have come down on the film for several things, including its monsters and CGI effects. But I think that the film's look was a deliberate decision of Hahon's. He's not the world's greatest director, but he damn sure knows what he's doing. One reviewer called the monster "Ray Harryhausen throwbacks."
Harryhausen's name came to my mind also, but I think the director was consciously pursuing a retro look. In other words, shooting a film with contemporary action choreography, but with the look of a film that was shot at the time it was set, namely in the '70's.