Wednesday, 1 July 2009

Blood: The Last Vampire (2009 film)

I saw this film yesterday and was quite impressed with it, although it is not without faults. It is based on a Japanese Manga comic and an earlier anime film released in 2000. I have not seen either the comic or anime film so I have no idea how faithful the film is to either. I fully expected the film to have Japanese subtitles throughout, but it is in English for the most part, and mercifully, not dubbed English. Japanese subtitles are used in all of the flashback sequences.
THE PLOT. Saya (that's her in the poster) is a 400-year old half human - half vampire who hunts down other vampires. Why? Because it is her duty, she is told by her old mentor, Kato. After his death she ends up working for a shadowy organisation known as The Council, whilst seeking out Onigen, the highest ranking and strongest of the vampires. Onigen is also female and she was responsible for the death of Kato. In 1970 the Council enrol Saya in a school near the Yokota Air Base, which is run by the American Air Force. It is here that Saya strikes up a friendship with Alice, daughter of the Air Base's Commander. After wiping out dozens of vampire minions, Saya eventually has the showdown with Onegin that she so desired. As the film's tagline says, "now that she is here, there will be blood!"
THE FILM. Saya was played by a South Korean actress called Jun Ji-hyun who adopted the English screen name of Gianna Jun. Allison Miller played Alice and Onegin was played by Koyuki. Larry Lamb (yes, he of Eastenders and Gavin and Stacy fame) played the Air Base Commander. The film was directed by Chris Nahon and produced by Ronny Yu. It had a running time of 91 minutes.
THE REVIEW. First things first and I must admit I am curious about the title of this film. I'm okay with the "Blood" part as there is an awful lot of it but just who is the Last Vampire? If it is Saya, then she's only a half vampire and she retains her human soul. Maybe it means she's the last vampire with her humanity intact, as all other vampires appear to be evil bloodsuckers. Is it Onegin? If so what about all of her minions. You get the impression that the world is full of vampires. I just don't get that "Last Vampire" part.
Okay, on to the good bits. The fight scenes are for the most part, very well choreographed and exciting to watch. And there are a lot of fight scenes! Saya kills most of her enemies with her katana, which means that a lot of blood is spilled. She doesn't say much, letting her actions speak for her. The death of Kato, seen in one of the flashback sequences, was one of the outstanding fight scenes, very reminiscent of such modern day classics as Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon or House of Flying Daggers. I quite liked The Council, who reminded me of an early version of Men in Black. They fight the supernatural and clean up any trace of their own existence and that of the vampires.
As for those faults I mentioned in the introduction, where to start? Yes, there was a lot of blood sprayed across the screen but it was all so obviously CGI. Not good in these days of state-of-the-art CGI effects! The character of Alice was an annoyance and irritating. Totally useless in a fight, she offered nothing. There were times that I had a strong sense of deja vu whilst watching certain scenes. Saya's handler from The Council reminded me of Bob (Tcheky Karyo) from La Femme Nikita. A chase scene involving Saya and Alice in a truck being pursued by a winged vampire was lifted almost scene for scene from Underworld: Evolution. The showdown between Saya and Onegin was over far too quickly and Onegin's revelation to Saya came as no surprise. None of the characters were fully fleshed out as characterisation played second fiddle to fight scene after fight scene. Some may see this as a good thing. I certainly prefer action packed movies over those full of dialogue and exposition. But to me, this never felt like a vampire movie. It was more a martial arts movie. It could just as easily have been called Blood: The Last Samurai. Saya never really convinced me that she was a vampire. Okay, she drank blood from a bottle and in one scene, where she is badly wounded, drinks the blood of Alice from a cut she makes in her hand. But you never see her fangs. Sunlight does not bother her. Whilst she has superfast reflexes and super strength, her reliance on her katana to kill with made me think of her more a samurai than a vampire. All things considered I'd rate this film 6 out of 10. It is worth seeing for the fight scenes and gratuitous violence. Now if someone was to make a 28mm scale figure of Saya I'd buy her.

1 comment:

  1. I agree the truck scene was exactly the same even the way the vampire looked bared resembalance to Marcus in underworld