Movie Review - Blood: The Last Vampire
By Shalimar Sahota
July 6, 2009
Even for a 400-year old vampire, Korean actress Jeon Ji-hyun (who adopted the name Gianna Jun specifically for the release of this film) still manages to look youthful enough at 27 to pass for a schoolgirl. Known for My Sassy Girl and Il Mare, Blood is essentially her show, bringing vulnerability to the strong silent Saya. She curiously stands out in her own country, notably during her walk into Kanto High School with all eyes on her. "We believe she's not even Japanese, " says a US Army Officer, a cameo by director Chris Nahon, providing an in-joke about Jun.
Allison Miller (last seen in 17 Again) doesn't really get to do much, since her character Alice serves little purpose except to hide, scream and push the plot onwards by asking questions and receiving mixed answers. Although she does briefly help Saya at moments, it would have really bolstered the action if they made Alice more of a kick-ass heroine instead. Also it's never fully explained why these demons want to kill her. They just do.
Director Chris Nahon made his directorial debut with Kiss of the Dragon, which actually delivered some great action and real stunts, with little CGI, though he had some help in the form of Corey Yuen. Yuen had directed The Transporter and stuck around for the sequels as a martial arts choreographer. Although Nahon brings him onboard again, Blood seems to be the first time either of them has had to fully incorporate special effects into the story. Given the source material, this is certainly a film that needs it, but Nahon's over-reliance on it lessens the impact.
The few ideas they do have for outrageous action sequences are unfortunately let down by the bargain bin special effects. One example (which takes the best bits from Underworld: Evolution and Wanted) involves a fight with a demon on top of a truck that has driven off a cliff and become lodged down a narrow crevice. It's one of the more over-the-top sequences in the film, but also highlights the flaws in the effects, and more alarmingly, the continuity (Saya's sword appears and disappears). The CGI chiropteran demons themselves are more laughable than convincing, coming across as demented midgets that look like the kind of thing you'd expect to see in some cheap straight-to-video production or demented children's TV series. Underworld was released six years ago, had a cheaper production budget ($22 million, against Blood's $35 million) and looked better than this.
Also, why the hell must mainstream action films with scenes of martial arts look like they've been filmed by stoned teenagers? The excessive frantic cuts do not look cool, making the fighting all the more awkward and difficult to see, but it's done to hide the fact that actress Gianna Jun isn't a martial artist. The decision to use Jun over a skilled martial artist helps sell the film across Asia, but the trade-off comes in the action sequences, given that Jun has never done an action film before. Although you can believe that she can kill a vampire in real life (having hurt herself training for three months) it's as if the fighting sequences have been downsized, using crazy editing to accommodate Jun. Hence, we see the occasional close-ups of Saya slashing away at a demon off-screen while copious amounts of CGI blood fly onscreen. Although it would have been cheaper to buy the real thing from a blood bank, CGI blood allows for more than is humanly possible to spurt out, and also allows Nahon to film it flowing in over-indulgent slow motion, because he loves it. However altering the speed up and down during the action does not make it any better.
Adapting the anime of Blood: The Last Vampire is a great idea; it's just a shame that the result is badly executed. Director Nahon, and even choreographer Yuen, should know better. Sure, audiences aren't gong to flock to this because of the nonsensical story, but if you're promising them a decent hack and slash film, then for the love of white cotton panties, at least you could film it properly by learning to keep the camera still. Apart from Jun herself, there's little that really stands out. The truth is, you've most likely seen this kind of thing hundreds of times before, and often better. If you've seen the trailer, then you won't find it too hard imaging the remaining 88 minutes yourself.