Movie Review - Blood: The Last Vampire
By Shalimar Sahota
July 6, 2009
Directed by – Chris Nahon
Stars - Gianna Jun (Saya), Allison Miller (Alice McKee), Liam Cunningham (Michael), JJ Feild (Luke), Koyuki (Onigen), Colin Salmon (Powell), Larry Lamb (General McKee)
Cert – 18 / R
Length – 90 minutes
Simply having a young Asian girl dressed in a Japanese sailor school uniform, slicing ass in half with a katana is practically an open invitation for young, hot-blooded males to get some wrist action while in the back row of a movie theater. But they'll be disappointed to learn that Blood: The Last Vampire, based on Production I.G's anime of the same name, fails to deliver, even on fan service.
The original anime short was released in 2000, coming across as a supernatural version of Nikita/The Assassin. It left a few unanswered questions, but was nonetheless thrilling. It also spawned a series known as Blood+. This live-action remake brings together a great mixture of cultures. The film presents a Korean actress in the lead (passing for Japanese), with an American actress co-starring, both involved in fight scenes choreographed by a Chinese stunt director, all overseen by a French director. I'm telling you, you couldn't even make this up.
Set in 1970s Tokyo, Saya (Gianna Jun) may look like a 17-year-old schoolgirl, but is actually a 400-year-old "half-ling" (part vampire, part human, all Wesley Snipes). She works for a secret organization known as The Council, led by Michael (Liam Cunningham). They tend to use Jesus Christ's name in vain and provide Saya with the blood she needs to survive while she uses her skills to rid the world of bloodsuckers (strangely, the word vampire is never uttered in the film). The Council enrolls her in Kanto High School at an American military base to wipe out suspected demons. There, she befriends the base general's daughter, Alice (Allison Miller), and also senses that this may be her one chance to finally kill the number one evil vampire of them all, Onigen (Koyuki) - the one who killed her father.
Chris Chow wrote the screenplay, and manages the not-so-hard task of turning the first 20 minutes into a successful adaptation of the anime, from the opening subway scene to Saya's school assignment. The difficulties and senselessness come when the film completely abandons the school scenario, going in another direction altogether, with Saya fighting no-name demons on the dark, rainy streets of Tokyo, highlighted by neon lights. It looks lush, thanks to the production design (and kudos to cinematographer Hang-Sang Poon). Saya's lengthy flashback explaining her past provides little answers. "I have one purpose, and one purpose only," says Saya. "To kill Onigen." Unbelievably, Onigen, played by Japanese actress Koyuki, is heavily underwritten and criminally underused. It's as if she was an afterthought, given how motiveless this villain is. Film clips and trailers show that some scenes have been deleted to bring it to a lean 90 minutes; enough to suggest that there was a bigger film. We won't know if it's a better one till the sure-to-be extended DVD arrives.