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Tonight's Feature Presentation


Starring: Kristanna Loken, Ben Kingsley, Michael Madsen, Matt Davis, Michelle Rodriguez, Meat Loaf Aday

Written By: Guinevere Turner Directed By: Uwe Boll

The Short Version

Yes, BloodRayne is bad, but it is awesomely bad.

The title character is a refreshing change from normal, and Kristanna Loken capitalizes on that.

Can we stop putting wigs on Ben Kingsley?  No one’s buying into them.

Whoever cast Meat Loaf was nuts, and I salute that person.  So what was up with almost everyone else?

Just kick back and have a blast with BloodRayne.

The Long Version

What Kind Of Cheese Is It?


Cheap stuff with a red streak in it that’s oh- so-tasty when you spread it out on a snack cracker.

Pairs Well With...


So what if it’s cheap and it’s not wine?  It’s dark red and it’s yummy and it plays really well for a party.

“Ungrateful bitch.”

There is a lot of dislike out there for 2005’s BloodRayne, and I can understand that.  The first foray onto the screen for the action/horror video game vamp (or, to be proper, dhampir: half human, half vampire) that gives the movie its title is nothing short of a complete train wreck, and I will happily enumerate many of its faults as we go on here.

But first, I will also tell you that BloodRayne is ridiculously awesome.

Much of this awesomeness comes from the movie being so bad that it comes out the other side and you just can’t help but be amused with it.  But there is more to it than that, so before we get to the silliness, let’s talk about the genuinely good stuff here.

I’ll start with the quickest and easiest item: Geraldine Chaplin’s cameo as the Fortune Teller.  She brings true class to a movie that otherwise doesn’t have much, and her performance, however brief, is straight up fantastic.  Her character’s function is to bring order to chaos and provide some real direction where there had been none before, and Chaplin hits that one out of the park.  However short her time on the screen may be, you will remember it.

With that said, you’ll be able to choose from a menu of reasons why, but you’re really going to remember Kristanna Loken, and the title character she plays.

Taking the character first, Rayne brings something to the screen that almost no other movie vampire does.  (I know she’s a dhampir, and I understand the technical differences, but for the purposes of this discussion, we can consider vampires and their dhampir cousins one in the same type.)  Think of all the vamps and dhamps you’ve seen before.  Dracula.  Blade.  Selene.  Regardless of which, when you first encounter them, they are badasses, and they know it.  They’re aware of their powers, and they have honed their skills to deadly precision.  The vamp is always at the top of his or her game.

But not Rayne.

When we first meet Rayne, she’s essentially being held captive as a carnival freak: the center of an act built around stabbing her and burning her with water (ordinary water) and then having her heal before the crowd’s very eyes when given a taste of blood.  She has an idea of her powers and vulnerabilities, but hasn’t honed her skills and certainly isn’t at the top of anything.  When a drunk carnival worker decides to try having his way with her, Rayne finally snaps (no doubt sparked by the memory of her mother’s rape), kills her attacker, and then takes out a few more carnies in a berserk rage before taking off into the woods with a pair of swords passed to her by a friend with a blade act.  An impressive display of power, sure, but it’s still just unfocused berserking.  Even when she starts randomly going after vampires, it’s apparent that Rayne really doesn’t know what she’s doing.  She doesn’t even know what a dhampir is, despite the fact the she is one.  In essence, Rayne is lost.

And that, folks, is refreshing.  This is a spin on the vampire that audiences just never get to see. 

Rayne also has to learn how to use her swords properly, and as many a critic has pointed out, she never really makes it to what anyone would call black belt level.  Many put this as a knock on Kristanna Loken, and of course I’m under no illusions that this was an artistic choice, but nevertheless, the fact she’s not perfect with her fighting skills ends up working for the character, whether or not that was anyone’s intent.  It just adds another dimension to Rayne’s having to build herself up from scratch.

And where there is an artistic choice, Kristanna Loken delivers.  Unlike all but two other members of the primary credited cast, Loken actually looks like she gives a damn on the screen.  Rayne’s got a lot of complex issues going on, and they constantly play across Loken’s face.  In Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, we all saw that Loken can play the precision badass; here, she shows us that she has the range to do something different, to take the path that actually requires more effort (the badass would have been easier), and make something meaningful out it.  Even though she’s surrounded by other actors – including some pretty big names – calling it in over the phone (more in a few minutes on that), Loken cares enough to act.  I seriously love what she does in this movie.

And now, as we ease into the transition to the rest of BloodRayne, I will also agree that yes, she does look damn good in that outfit, which the costume designer no doubt made special effort to assure would show off her cleavage for the entire movie.  (And since pretty much the only cut out there now is unrated, you also get a brief topless sex scene as a bonus, and I’m certainly not going to complain about that.)

Now things start getting nuts.

Aside from Kristanna Loken and Geraldine Chaplin, the only member of the primary cast who really acts worth a damn is Meat Loaf Aday.  That’s right.  Meat Loaf, Mr. Bat Out Of Hell.  He, though, isn’t about the serious drama here.  Meat Loaf is about taking it completely over the top and coming back for seconds.  His character is a hedonistic vampire boss named Leonid, and Meat Loaf’s inspiration seems to have been “You know that King Herod guy in ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’?  I’m gonna make him a wuss compared to Leonid.”  And he does.  It’s an over the top farce and it’s marvelous.  Whoever thought to cast Meat Loaf here was nuts, and I salute them for it.

There are two other things that will grab your attention in Leonid’s lair. 

The first is that he’s surrounded by a harem of naked women.  What’s interesting about these women is that they’re all hookers.  I mean really; none of them are professional actresses.  The production team discovered it was cheaper to hire out prostitutes that were walking the streets near the set than it was to pay professional actresses to strip for the camera.  (That pretty much tells you most of what you need to know about how the director operates.)

The second thing about Leonid’s lair is the blood.  On your way to Leonid’s harem chamber, you pass through a vampire meat market and slaughterhouse.  Half dead people are kept chained to the wall and tapped for goblets of blood, and the remains of those who’ve already given all they had hang from hooks in the ceiling.  There is bright shiny red stuff everywhere.  It’s the kind of room that brings to mind old school Hammer with all of the inhibitions removed.  This room is truly awesome for those who appreciate gore.

That blood is not limited to Leonid’s lair, either.  It spurts and pours liberally at every opportunity from every bite and sword thrust in the film, at a ratio of what appears to be one gallon per inch of torn flesh.  The excess is ridiculous… and a blast.  Again, BloodRayne is a gore fan’s paradise.

For all of the above reasons, BloodRayne is fun in the traditional sense.

For what follows, BloodRayne is fun in the sense that it’s such a complete train wreck that you just can’t help but laugh at the disaster in front of you.

The disaster of BloodRayne begins with its screenplay.  Fans of the video game hated it from the start for changing the game’s original iconic setting that had Rayne pitted against the Nazis (it would eventually happen two sequels later in the direct to video market) to something more “vampire traditional” set in an unspecified Europe straight out of a Ren Faire.  The change in setting, though, is nothing compared to the thinned-out plot and amateur hour dialogue.  Before Rayne can face her ultimate adversary, she must acquire two legendary artifacts of epic importance that have been safely hidden for centuries.  Yeah.  Each one takes her five minutes.  And that dialogue…

Can we just agree that a rule needs to be put into place stating that any non-farce screenwriter who thinks that a line like “We must find her; she poses a threat to my plans” is ready for a final screen draft should be locked in a closet with streaming Ed Wood movies for a day while being beaten with a wet noodle?

The train wreck continues with Director Uwe Boll, whose filmmaking reputation is, shall we say, far less than sterling, and whom no one in their right mind would hand the keys to anything beyond the direct to video market.  This is the sort of movie that begs for someone like Paul W.S. Anderson to come out and play; I still can’t wrap my head around why anyone thought Boll was the man for the job.  Boll’s direction is all mechanics and no style, and it’s clear from early on that he has no control over his cast whatsoever.  One can imagine his instructions before any given scene being, “Okay, yeah.  Your check is already in the bank, so, you know, whatever.  Action!”  It’s a mess.

Every member of the primary cast that hasn’t already been singled out for better things earlier takes advantage of Boll and walks all over him.  Whether or not the casting choices were appropriate to begin with, the actors involved are still professionals, and they still took money, so really, they should be ashamed of themselves.  The fact that they end up turning out some hilarious comic performances is, after all, an accident.

Worst of all is Ben Kingsley as the film’s main villain, Kagan.  While there’s no question that he is horribly miscast, the man’s got a Best Actor Oscar, for cryin’ out loud.  He should have some self-respect and at least try.  Instead, he hurries through his lines as if he feels that his time is being wasted, and generally looks disgusted to be there.  The only redeeming feature at all of his performance comes during the final sequence; the fencing suits him, and the line up at the top is the only one of the entire film that he delivers with any sort of conviction.  (And can we stop putting wigs on him?  We all know he’s bald.  The wigs look ridiculous.  “Period” is no argument, either; the period of this movie is far too nebulous to use that as a justification.)

Coming in a close second is the equally miscast Michael Madsen, who sounds like his dialogue might have actually been recorded while he was reading previously unseen cue cards while sitting at a bar and chain smoking.  To call his delivery “wooden” doesn’t even begin to cover things; he might as well have changed all of his lines to “yeah, whatever” and been done with it.  I haven’t seen acting like this since the last time I saw a movie filmed in some guy’s basement, though on the plus side, Madsen would be the best of those guys in the basement, and at least he doesn’t show the contempt for his role that Kingsley does.

Michelle Rodriguez, meanwhile, seems to be wondering the same thing the rest of the audience is: namely, what the hell is she doing in this movie?  Rodriguez is one trick pony, and this is not her trick.  She’s constantly tripping over dialogue as she tries to find her voice, and always looks like a fish out of water even when she’s standing still.  Rodriguez is simply never comfortable on camera here.

As for Will Sanderson… apparently he decided that his haircut would do all the acting for him.  I think Uwe Boll approved.

The mess doesn’t get any better from there, either.  The prop guys forgot to make Rayne’s swords look sharp for close ups.  Matt Davis looks like he’s just trying to get past the experience of being so close to a pretty girl.  So many cars jumping the track, and yet…

…and yet, it’s fun.  Everything that goes wrong with BloodRayne does so in such spectacular fashion that it’s still a joy to watch, just for laughs.  Michael Madsen’s performance is dreadful, but it’s funny as hell.  The dialogue is horrid, but how can you not laugh when the aristocrat who’s just had a head tossed onto his desk says, “Will you stop throwing things at me?”  This is a movie that just begs to be had fun with for all of its incredible badness.

And then there’s the stuff that it gets right.  The blood is over the top in a way that the folks from the old Hammer studio could only have dreamed of.  She may not be in the setting that gamers wanted, but the heroine is fresh change from others of her kind that we’ve seen before.  And yes, what genre fan isn’t going to appreciate the costume?

Bottom line, BloodRayne maybe have a lot of things wrong with it, but it also does a few things right, and where it fails, it does so in a ridiculously spectacular and, above all, entertaining fashion.  And that word is the most important one here: entertaining.  At the end of the day, BloodRayne is just awesome fun.

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- Reviewed by Ziggy Berkeley, October, 2011

You can email Ziggy at ziggy@cinemaontherocks.com. You can also find us on Facebook.


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