Uwe Boll has made his masterpiece with his third video-game-to-movie opus, BloodRayne! In all honesty, if I thought for a minute this Roquefort-riddled camp-fest was as intentionally ridiculous, stilted, witless and over-the-top as it actually is, then I’d actually mean that.
Unfortunately, I’m pretty sure that BloodRayne‘s engaging claptrap quality is pure happenstance born of the kind of colossal ineptitude that comes along maybe once in a generation. Oh, sure, there have been worse filmmakers than Boll, but we’re talking memorably bad — Edward D. Wood, Jr. bad. Even objectively, BloodRayne is a vast improvement over The House of the Dead and Alone in the Dark, but that’s hardly an accomplishment of note, and might simply be a law-of-averages sort of thing.
I’m hard-pressed to believe that Boll is improving at his craft. There’s certainly no sign of that on the level of coherence or even simple competence. For example, our heroine, Rayne (Kristanna Loken, Terminator 3), is forever on about having seen her mother raped and murdered right in front of her by arch-vampire Kagan (Ben “Just Sign My Check” Kingsley), an event about which she is understandably annoyed. But then we see this occurrence in flashback and no rape is involved. Perhaps she’s referring to the rape that produced her, but her witnessing this strains my credulity.
Of course, Boll is not directly responsible for the screenplay or its hysterically clunky dialogue. That charge must be laid at the feet of Guinevere Turner, who has some more credible credits to her credit — like co-authoring American Psycho. Much bafflement has been expressed over Ms. Turner’s work here. I have a theory: Close contact with Boll causes brain cells to leap into the sea with lemming-like tenacity. This could go a long way toward explaining the performances in BloodRayne, too.
OK, so Michael Madsen isn’t all Kill Bill. He’s often tried to prove there’s less to him than meets the eye (Vampires Anonymous, anyone), but never with the grim determination he displays here as an improbably street-wise 18th-century vampire hunter bearing the unlikely name Vladimir. It’s partly just miscasting (see also Michelle Rodriguez as another 18th-century vampire slayer), but that hardly explains his disinterested, boozy performance.
And, yes, Ben Kingsley did appear in the live-action Thunderbirds, but at least there he was enjoyably hammy. Here he spends most of the film sitting on a throne (it was restful, I suppose) and appearing half asleep. The roll call of shame hardly ends there. Most of the name actors only pop up for a scene (hey, it’s cheaper to get their footage in the can in a day or two), walk through it and then vanish. Geraldine Chaplin is in full Maria Ouspenskaya garb, but can’t even bother to affect an accent. Udo Kier is on hand, but that’s because he’s Udo Kier and this is what he does. Billy Zane (also mostly seated and sporting a dubious wig) is a little more deliberately amusing, but only Meatloaf as a Nero-esque vampire literally covered in real, naked Rumanian hookers (they were cheaper than actors) seems to get into the spirit of silliness.
Technically, Boll continues to prove that he hasn’t a clue about directing action. BloodRayne is all muddled close-shot work edited together to provide the illusion of action, occasionally interspersed with awkward cutaways to Monty Python-level spurting blood. Yes, there’s a sort of plot involving collecting three talismans — an eye, a heart and a rib bone (a rib bone???) — that will give the possessor ultimate power (and possibly a shot at opening a popular barbecue joint), but that’s not important. It’s all about hot 18th-century babes (Loken and Rodriguez) in leather and hip-hugger jeans brandishing swords amidst a lot of spurting fake blood (with time out, yes, for a gratuitous sex scene).
By the ending — with more corpses littering Kagan’s throne-room floor than one finds in the grimmest grand opera — it’s become so silly that you may not be Boll-ed over, but you may find yourself more amused than annoyed. Be warned: There’s an attached trailer for Boll’s next film, a bargain-basement Lord of the Rings knock-off called In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale, in which he promises to embarrass Jason Statham, John Rhys-Davies, Ray Liotta, Matthew Lillard, Leelee Sobieski and … Burt Reynolds. This verges on twisted genius.
Or maybe it’s just plain twisted. Rated R for strong bloody violence, some sexuality and nudity.
– reviewed by Ken Hanke