BloodRayne (2005) Review

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BloodRayne (2005)

~Review by Grawlix (April 2018)

Score: C-

   Once more unto the breach, dear friends. It’s time for yet another video game adaptation courtesy of Uwe Boll. I must confess, I almost feel like the film critic equivalent of a battered wife returning, as I am, to watch yet another one of his movies, hoping things will be different this time, knowing that they won’t. Boll’s well documented willingness to literally beat down his critics doesn’t help. I need to be careful of accidentally saying his name while looking into a mirror, lest he appear before me. But at least by this point I know, more or less, what to expect since Boll is nothing if not a dedicated follower of formula. Lets run down the checklist, shall we?

Anachronistic, but surprisingly recognizable casting:

   The titular Rayne is played by Kristanna Loken who most people will recognize as the Terminatrix from Terminator 3 though, to me, she’ll always be Taja from Mortal Kombat: Conquest. She’s a surprisingly appropriate choice both in her physical appearance and her acting ability (not that Boll is one to make extraordinary demands in that regard) which leads me to believe that, just this once, Boll actually casted specifically for the part, or else got incredibly lucky with his usual swipe-right-on-everybody approach. Michael Madsen plays weathered vampire hunter Vladimir, which was apparently considered something of a miscast at the time although coming off his role as Budd in Kill Bill, this was, perhaps, as convincing as he was ever going to look wielding a sword. Michelle Rodriguez and Matthew Davis play his junior partners. Sir Ben Kingsley (!) plays Kagan, the not-Dracula uber vampire antagonist. Billy Zane and Meat Loaf make appearances. Granted they’re essentially glorified cameos, but they’re in there. How Boll is consistently able to pull so many recognizable names is a mystery I have yet to solve. Maybe he gives a really good sales pitch, maybe he runs a very relaxed set, or maybe he just has dynamite craft services (that Madsen was reportedly drunk for most of his time on set lends credence to those last two). I’d love to know the true answer.

Threadbare plot:

   For better or worse, Boll likes to keep things simple. While House of the Dead had virtually no plot at all, and Alone in the Dark tried to fill in as many blanks as possible with scrolling text and voice-over narration, Bloodrayne seems to finally hit the sweet spot of just-enough-to-get-by-without-shortcuts. Reportedly, the shooting script (credited to Guinevere Turner) was a first draft that Boll modified on the fly as he went. As such, there isn’t a whole lot of meat, storywise, but it does, at least, have all the correct parts in the proper order. It’s mainly an origin story as Loken’s Rayne, a dhamphir, or half-vampire, escapes from a traveling circus where she is a featured, if macabre, attraction. She is recruited by the Brimstone Society, a semi-monastic supernatural task force seeking to rid the world of vampires, particularly the powerful Kagan. Rayne is Kagan’s daughter, but she wants him dead nonetheless as he raped and killed Rayne’s mother. To this end she seeks to gather three ancient vampiric talismans: an eye, a rib, and a heart, both to gain an audience with Kagan, and to augment her own strength for a final confrontation.

   It’s not much, but it gets the job done. Unfortunately, that’s about all it does. There are a few twists, but nothing surprising and the few attempts at character development are perfunctory at best. Rayne gets a few moments, and Kingsley manages to infuse a certain amount of dignity into his character, as befits an actor of his stature, but as usual Boll seems to find excessive characterization to be more of a distraction than anything. There are multiple scenes of violence and mayhem that barely elicit a shrug from the average passer-by, even if they would be expected to have a connection to the victims. If even the background characters can’t bring themselves to care about the various goings on of the story, why should we?

   I’ve only played a little of the first BloodRayne game, so I can’t comment too much on how well the movie may have adapted it. Given how generic the movie’s script is, I’d imagine there is little real connection with the exception of a few names and the Brimstone Society symbol. I do remember there being a decent amount of gunplay in the game that’s definitely not in the movie (held off for the sequels, I’d imagine) and the whole body part gathering subplot is a recurring goal in the Castlevania series of video games so, uh, they got the genre right at least?…


   Boll clearly feels that action is his wheelhouse even though in four movies he’s never really broken any new ground with it. There’s plenty of action in Bloodrayne, but it’s a curious mixed bag in terms of quality. In his other movies, Boll seemed to take any opportunity to toss in some martial arts type moves, but oddly there is very little of that here. Given that, of all his game adaptations so far, Bloodrayne is the one in which they’d be most appropriate, the absence of such flourishes is conspicuous indeed. In fact, the fight choreography in general is sluggish and uninspired. It is saved, however, by some splashy and well-executed makeup and gore effects which give gruesome punctuation to the film’s many kills. I don’t know if it was a budgetary or scheduling issue, or a simple stylistic choice to forgo flashy fight direction for more gratuitous violence, but I guess for a vampire movie, if you can only choose one, that would be the one to pick.

The Rest:

   For a period movie on a limited budget, most of the basics don’t look too bad. The sets and costumes may be a bit plain but not so much that they distract. Rayne’s signature tonfa-style blades are well rendered but the rest of the sword props look noticeably fake, with most of them sporting rounded points like those a lego man might wield. You could possibly write this off as a stylistic choice, but since it makes the weapon demonstrably less effective, this would represent an extreme dedication to fashion, indeed. More likely it was done simply to make the bush-league swordplay less dangerous for the actors. Having an attractive female lead does open up some new avenues of exploitation but thankfully Boll doesn’t abuse this as much as one might fear. There is a sex scene and some nudity, but I suspect they felt a little too much like character development for Boll to linger on them overlong.

   Video game adaptations and vampire movies are two genres that don’t get a lot of respect to begin with. Add to that the fact the Boll’s reputation was definitely becoming a liability by this point and it’s clear that Bloodrayne was going to face a uphill battle with audiences and critics. Unsurprisingly, it took a beating at the box office and was panned across the board. Nevertheless, and I realize I’ve probably said this about all of Boll’s movies I’ve watched, but having seen a lot of video game adaptations and vampire movies myself, Bloodrayne is hardly the worst either genre has to offer. It’s generic, yes, but it does manage to make it to the end without flying off the rails. Amusingly enough, the world of Bloodrayne would prove to be one of Boll’s preferred sandboxes, generating two sequels and a parody film. On its own merits, it’s average at best, but it’s not horrible. If you’ve watched every Underworld movie and still find yourself thirsting for more of the same, you could do worse than tagging in Bloodrayne.

Final Grade: C-

Mediocrity might as well be excellence in Boll’s world, and BloodRayne is very nearly mediocre. Close enough that you can watch it and not hate yourself in the morning, at any rate.


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