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Blood: The Last Vampire
Multi-National Production Serves Up a Live Action Remake of a Japanese Anime
Friday, July 10, 2009
Credit: Manga Video/Samuel Goldwyn Films
Well it seems that studios have tired (i.e. are discovering the diminishing returns) of badly remaking Asian horror films and are now turning to Japanese anime for sources of inspiration. We recently had the horrendous live action "Dragonball Z" and Keanu Reeves is set for a "Cowboy Bebop" remake while Leonardo DiCaprio wants to produce a live action version of the seminal anime "Akira." In the meantime we have to suffer through "Blood: The Last Vampire" (opening July 10 at Landmark's Hillcrest Cinemas).
The Japanese anime "Blood: The Last Vampire" had prestigious lineage. It was conceived by "Ghost In The Shell" writer-director Mamoru Oshii and was billed as Japan's first all-digital animated film. But the digital process combined hand-drawn cels with digital backgrounds, allowing both to be modified with enhanced light and shadow. The result was a visually impressive but plot-challenged 48-minute film. Far from perfect but arresting nonetheless and at least assured in goal of delivering delirious action.
The English language, live action remake of "Blood" retains all the original film's flaws but little of its strengths. This remake was backed by Hong Kong, Japan, France and Argentina so I guess I can't blame Hollywood for this mess. (Scroll down to the bottom of the review to compare the trailers for the anime and the live action film.)
The confused story involves Saya (Gianna Jun) who looks like a young Japanese girl although we discover she is a blood\sucker who's actually a few hundred years old. She works for a secret government organization that hunts and kills demons (in the anime it was daemons). Her latest mission involves her going back to school to uncover a nasty horde of demons on a military base. That's about all the attention the plot deserves.
The problems with this live action remake begin with Gianna Jun (aka Ji-hyun Jun of "My Sassy Girl") as the main character Saya. The striking thing about the anime is that Saya looks like a tiny little girl so we are startled when she suddenly reveals her lethal skills and her age. Jun, who's actually Korean, looks like an adult and seems surprisingly tall so we are less taken aback by her fighting skills. Plus director Chris Nahon has her play the role with such one-dimensional blandness that we feel nothing for the character. You'd never suspect that Jun was the delightful star of South Korea's "My Sassy Girl."
Next up on the problem list is Nahon as director. Previously he directed Jet Li in the disappointing actioner "Kiss of the Dragon." The only thing that could have saved this movie is a sense of style – enough style to distract from the lame plot, bad dialogue, and wooden acting.
The only smart thing the producers did was to hire Corey Yuen – veteran Hong Kong director and fight choreographer – as "Blood's" action director. So every now and then the film has a flare up of style for a fight. But having Yuen work for Nahon would be like having John Woo do stunts on a Michael Bay film. What a waste! People like Yuen need to be in charge of films not working for some hack. On his own, Yuen has delivered such action classics as "Fong Sai Yuk," "My Father is a Hero," and "Dragons Forever." Here in the U.S. he was allowed to helm "The Transporter" and "DOA: Dead or Alive." He has also worked as an action director with Nahon on "Kiss of the Dragon." But if Yuen had been in charge of "Blood" it would have at least been a better and more stylish action film.
"Blood: The Last Vampire" (rated R for strong bloody stylized violence) commits the worst offense of an action film – it's boring and slow. It tries to imitate the anime original but Nahon doesn't have a clue how to build on the anime's strengths and diminish its weaknesses. The best thing that can come from this film is that it will be so poorly received both by critics and audiences that it will put a damper on Hollywood's current interest in remaking anime. I can only hope.
Companion viewing: "Blood: the Last Vampire" (anime), "Fong Sai Yuk," "My Sassy Girl," "Azumi"
You can compare for yourself the anime and live action versions of "Blood: The Last Vampire" by checking out these two trailers.
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