Lionsgate // 2005 // 87 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // September 16th, 2005
The bounty is blood.
I am going to take the high road here. One look at this disc cover, and you can see that this review could pretty much write itself. Make no mistake, Vampire Assassins parrots that other film about an African American kung-fu-fighting, sword-wielding part-vampire vampire-killer, of course, but I refuse to take that cheap, easy shot. No way. I wish to prove to you, loyal reader, that I possess enough writing savvy to craft a cohesive critical assessment of this film, without resorting to patently obvious observations. I am capable enough and intelligent enough, and I am above that.
Vampire Assassins is a crappy rip-off of Blade. The end.
So I didn't follow through on what I committed to do. Kind of like the people in charge of Vampire Assassins, who didn't follow through on their commitment to make a coherent, watchable film that didn't compel me to take a rolling pin to my skull. Vampire Assassins is disastrous on an Old Testament scale.
The premise is simple, yet stupid. Writer-director Ron Hall plays a cop (a "cop with a vengeance," as the synopsis awkwardly puts it; isn't "with a vengeance" an adverb?) who finds himself mixed up with the paranormal. Aided by an intrepid alternative media journalist (Merry Everest, giving laugh-out-loud line readings), Hall's Derek Washington pursues the dark secrets of the undead. His investigation leads him to an ancient sect of vampire slayers led by Master Kao (Gerald Okamura, Big Trouble in Little China). He joins in their mission to hunt and slay the notorious vampire Slovak (Mel Novak).
As I write this summary, I'm trying to tease out some memories of elements of this film that don't blow. I got nothing. From top to bottom, Vampire Assassins is a mind-numbing gut shot -- acting, special effects, gore, story, action, dialogue, and direction, all of it: horrible. In fact, I wish this film were a rip-off of Blade. Maybe through some kind of film knock-off osmotic process Vampire Assassins would have imbibed a fraction of coolness, but, alas, Ron Hall opted to just pilfer the look of Blade and forge an unholy brain clot of a B-movie.
From the get-go, this flick is nonsensical. Take a gander at the cover art on the disc case. That is not the titular vampire assassin. Derek Washington doesn't wear cool sunglasses or do his hair in nifty cornrows or arm himself with wacky vampire-ventilating boomerangs. In fact, Washington doesn't even suit up in the derivative shiny black trench coat until the final 20 minutes. For the first hour or so you will have to endure a police procedural populated by actors ranging from clueless (Merry Everest) to ludicrous (Mel Novak, laying on the Dracula schtick so thick you'd need a sandblaster to unearth anything remotely resembling interesting character work).
Once we get into the nitty-gritty of the story, it all becomes even less compelling. "Wow, a super-secret society that hunts vampires! That's new and exciting!" "Hey, a wise old Asian man who's going to tutor our upstart protagonist! Ingenious!" "The main bad guy is a super-powerful vampire that has been killing people for years and has yet to meet his match? However will this captivating series of events end?"
You may be thinking, "Hey, so the story stinks? Big deal. This movie is called Vampire Assassins, not Jane Austen's Vampire Assassins. I just want to see some kick-ass vampire assassinating!"
So did I. Unfortunately, the action sequences are like everything else on display here: godforsaken. There's lots of fighting, but it's all so poorly choreographed and framed that the mayhem comes across as stilted and completely disorganized. Hall has some kung-fu chops, as do a few of the thugs, but their talents are wasted. And don't get me started on Novak's horrible "bullet-deflection" scenes, when he goofily swirls his cape around to block gunfire. Gorehounds will walk away unsatisfied as well. For a flick about killing the undead, Vampire Assassins is surprisingly sterile. That's one original thing I'll credit Hall with -- he drummed up a new way to film a vampire's demise. Instead of producing a gooey explosion of Karo syrup or dissolving into fiery ashes, these vampires, when staked, get struck by computer-generated lightning.
That's about as many words as I'm willing to spend on Vampire Assassins. Similarly, Lions Gate was unwilling to spend much money on its release. The fullscreen video is dull, grainy, and cheap-looking, and the front-heavy 5.1 Dolby mix accomplishes little. Save for trailers of what are sure to be more entertaining movies, there is nothing extra to be found.
You want me to try to be as bleeding-heart as possible and pick out a silver lining in this mess? Fine. This flick is so insipid, it's funny. Watch it with your wittiest drunken friends to wring a semblance of entertainment out of it.
The best use for Vampire Assassins is to be played on an unending loop at Guantanamo Bay to obtain intelligence from terrorists captured on the Iraqi battlefield. On second thought, that might be too inhumane. Maybe an alternate, less cruel form of interrogation would be to dip the prisoners' genitals in Worcestershire sauce and sic starved hyenas on them.
Guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
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Scales of Justice
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (English)
Running Time: 87 Minutes
Release Year: 2005
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13