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May 12, 2006 |

By Phillip Stephens | Film | May 12, 2006 |

In his short “career,” German “director” Uwe Boll has become one of the most distinguishingly inept practitioners of film since the notorious Ed Wood. If you think that’s hyperbole, go watch Alone in the Dark or House of the Dead — the most skin-peelingly awful films I’ve seen since the last broadcast of “Mystery Science Theater 3000.” Those movies are truly astonishing: Risibly acted, edited, and shot, disasters on such a complete scale that they transcend failure and become things of sheer delight — Alone in the Dark was last year’s best comedy by a long shot.

Keeping this in mind, it’s hard to know whether to be disappointed by Toilet Boll’s third descent into video-game-makeover Hell — BloodRayne. The film is by far Boll’s best to date — which is to say, he’s made the crossover from hilariously bad camp to just plain stupid. Is this a step in the right direction? You be the judge.

It’s likely that the reason for this startling upsurge in quality was that Boll managed to gain access to at least B-grade actors and, inexplicably, screenwriter Guinevere Turner (Go Fish, American Psycho, “The L Word”), all of whom are cinematic ├╝bermenschen compared to the John Q. Jackasses working behind the scenes in his previous efforts.

But sadly, casting can’t really be looked on as an improving factor when the director doesn’t give a damn about whether an actor is appropriate for a role or not, so long as their names are recognizable to potential investors. Take poor Ben Kingsley, for example, who plays an evil vampire lord (for God’s sake). The man won the gold for Gandhi and has been snubbed numerous times for similarly brilliant performances (See House of Sand and Fog, Sexy Beast, and probably Oliver Twist), yet he’s somehow condescended to be in cinematic detritus like A Sound of Thunder, Species, Thunderbirds, and now this. What’s up, Ben? The poor guy just stands around, mostly, delivering his lines in monotonic mumble, probably because that’s what the script calls for. Our nominal heroes Vladimir (Michael Madsen) and Sebastian (Matt Davis) don’t fare any better. Reportedly, Madsen was drunk through the entirety of filming (with luck, the audience will be as well); his character looks like a ’50s noir cop with stringy, shoulder-length hair, and he delivers dialogue like “She could mean … the end … or the beginning … of the world … as we know it,” in Shatnerian staccato. Billy Zane actually does worse, but then runs screaming from the movie after two scenes and five minutes of screen-time. I’m assuming that Matt Davis was supposed to be the leading man, but his poofy Euro-mullet makes it a tad difficult to swallow.

In the end, though, it doesn’t matter whether the actors are exceptional or not. Filming began two weeks after casting, so the actors had little to no time for weapons training, dialogue coaching, script study, or proper choreography of any kind, meaning the action sequences had to be edited into frenetic malarkey (This, Uwe knows how to do!) and their scenes reek of ill-prepared haphazardness. Kristanna Loken, bless her heart, does the best she can in the title role by injecting some much-needed subtlety into the rampantly hammy plot. Loken is a beautiful though uncharismatic actress, but her obvious purpose in the film was to provide hope to the RPG geeks that at any given point her zaftig tah-tahs would burst forth from her leather jerkin (Sigh … they do). I won’t bother to talk about Michelle Rodriguez, who does a piss-poor British accent and plays the same cocky bint she’s always played.

With this film, I really was hoping to find some of the camp enjoyment found in the typical Sword and the Sorcerer/Sci-Fi Channel fantasy flotsam genre. But whereas in Boll’s House of the Dead I was bored and laughing, in BloodRayne I was bored and paying attention, probably because he’s cut his teeth enough to achieve some semblance of editing and pacing. As it is, propped up with gallons of blood and boobs, the damn thing is watchable — and you have no idea how hard it is for me to admit that.

BloodRayne is still an incongruous, messy affair, but it does bear mentioning that it’s Toilet Boll’s best exertion (“least terrible” is a better descriptor) to date — intentional or no, and since the bastard is already slated to do no less than five more video-game makeovers in the next couple of years, we might as well take whatever optimistic pittance we can get.

Phillip Stephens is a movie critic for Pajiba.

BloodRayne / Phillip Stephens

Film | May 12, 2006 |



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