Monday, 5 July 2010

Blood: The Last Vampire

Directed by: Chris Nahon
Written by: Chris Chow
Starring: Gianna Jun, Alison Miller, Liam Cunningham, JJ Field & Yakasuaki Karata

Vampire slaying abounds in this really rather entertaining live action version of the ace anime of the same name. Once again, this is a film that comes with a less than stellar rep, it hardly having a chance out of the starting gate thanks to over eager fanboys denouncing it from the get go. Now, it isn't a work of art and, yes, the CGI is horrible (one of the main reasons why hate has been thrown at this film) but Blood: The Last Vampire is much better than expected and delivers vampire themed action by the truckload.

Saya (Jun) is a vampire hunter working for a shady organization who hunts down the demons in post Word War 2 Japan. Half human, half vampire herself she is looked after by two agents, Harrison (Cunningham) and Luke (Field,) who assign her missions and keep her in a supply of blood to quench her own thirst. Assigned to a US military base to flush out some demons, Jun unexpectedly forms a relationship with Alice (Miller), the daughter of the base's commander. Alice in turn unexpectedly stumbles into the world of vampires and the two soon find themselves on the run from Saya's former employee's, hordes of nasty vampires and soon to face the most powerful vampire of all, Onigen.

The original anime Blood: The Last Vampire, released back in 2000, was a short and sweet slice of manga styled action horror. The film is much the same though the plot has been considerably expanded to accommodate a feature running time. The anime was pretty much just set on the army base while this serves as the first part of the feature film. Chris Nahon (Kiss of the Dragon, Empire of Wolves) creates an atmospheric setting, utilizing his budget and camera well to create a gothic infused, early seventies Japan that is run amok with vampires. The characters are surprisingly more rounded and infused with personality for a special effects driven action film with the cast effectively embracing the pulpy nature of the script. Jun and Miller make for effectively strong female characters, Jun deftly swinging a sword and bringing just the right amount of melancholy to her role of a lonely vampire slaying assassin. In addition, Cunningham and Field are excellent as Saya's shady protectors, both of them seeming to relish the deliciously pulpy dialogue.

The film may suffer from too much style over substance but then this is a comic book movie about vampire slaying. The characters are much more defined and interesting for this kind of material and developed enough. Nahon has assured direction blending style, gore, character, emotion and action effectively to create a wild and distinctive ride. The action comes thick and fast, with Saya taking apart vampires in several sustained sequences of blood letting. Staged by Hong Kong ace Cory Yuen (Righting Wrongs, The Transporter) the action is fluid and suitably flight-of-fancy but is unfortunately marred somewhat by dreaded quick cutting and awful CGI effects. The editing doesn't completely destroy the action, it's just cut a little too quickly and closely. Unfortunately, the CGI effects do let things down and many no doubt will not be able to get past this. Often looking unfinished and amateur and involved in too major sequences in the film (the chase of a vampire demon across rooftops and an ambitious set piece involving a truck falling down a ravine), the CGI just doesn't cut it and unfortunately stands out from all the good work put into the style and look of the film.

However, if you can get past this and resist the need to spew forth reams of abuse about the crappy CGI, Blood: The Last Vampire is a highly entertaining and fun vampire action movie. It's a decent live action version of the anime, (again) no where near as bad as you might have heard and certainly a lot better than the last Blade film. Give it a chance

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