What explanation is there for the choices Ben Kingsley has made in recent years? Oh, sure, there have been “Sexy Beast” and “House of Sand and Fog.” But also “Spooky House” and “Thunderbirds” and “A Sound of Thunder.” And now “BloodRayne,” the worst of the lot. Just think about the enormity of that statement. This is an astronomically awful movie; the only question is whether it’s worse than Uwe Boll’s last atrocity “Alone in the Dark,” and you might say that it wins by Ben Kingsley’s nose. (Given his track record, producer-director Boll’s forename should certainly be changed to “Eww!”)
“Bloodrayn” is yet another movie based on a video game, with all the intrinsic problems that entails. Simply put, what makes games work for those who enjoy them is their interactive quality, something that films, at least in their present form, can’t duplicate. So even for fans of the originals, movies like this one can’t amount to much more than watching somebody else play. That might work for sporting events, but not for video games. Still, aficionados may be attracted to yet another attempt to translate their favorite violent pastime to the screen. But even the most devoted are likely to be bored and disgusted by what they see here.
For benefit of the uninitiated, “BloodRayne” is set in early modern Europe, and has to do with the efforts of a svelte, sword-wielding female warrior named Rayne (Kristanna Loken)–half-human and half-vampire–to track down and destroy her evil, blood-sucking father Kagan (Kingsley), who raped and killed her mother years before and is out to conquer the human world and establish a reign of vampires by collecting three talismans, the physical remnants of a destroyed vampire (an eye, a rib and a heart) that will endow him with unimaginable power. She teams up with three members of an anti-Kagan group called the Brimstone Society–Vladimir (Michael Madsen), Sebastian (Matt Davis) and Katarin (Michelle Rodriguez)–and together they battle her malevolent parent and his many minions, led by the dastardly Domastir (Will Sanderson), to save the day, literally. One could describe the whole shebang as a sort of period female version of “Blade” (“Bladette,” perhaps), but there’s a lot of “Underworld” and “Resident Evil” here, too–indeed, all the borrowing makes the movie seem like a ready-made hand-me-down, since there’s not a scene in it that you don’t feel you’ve seen before. The dark, murky look of the movie is depressingly familiar, too.
But it’s not just the dumb story or the muddy appearance that makes the movie so appalling. It’s the fact that the script (ascribed to one Guinevere Turner) is dreadful, with dialogue that’s alternately flat and ludicrous, and that Boll is completely unable to give it coherence, let alone any excitement. Perhaps devotees of the original game will understand what’s supposed to be going on, but others will be lost long before the first reel is over; and the director’s habit of inserting tricked-up flashbacks that are meant to provide background information only makes things more garbled. Boll even mucks up the frequent fight scenes with excruciatingly bad choreography and slipshod editing–all designed, it would seem, to camouflage the fact that the actors simply aren’t very proficient at swordplay.
That’s particularly true of Loken, who’s easily one of the most crushingly amateurish actresses to appear on screen in many a moon and who seems physically clumsy to boot. (The casting couch must have been prominently involved in her selection for the part.) Madsen walks through his role looking understandably bored, while Davis has a male model presence but little else and Rodriguez struts about with a perpetual pout. A few unhappily recognizable souls show up in mercifully brief turns–Billy Zane as Katarin’s effete vampire father, Udo Kier as a noble monk, Michael Pare as a rebel; but though all of them embarrass themselves, they can’t match Meat Loaf Aday, whose appearance as some sort of supposed vampire aesthete is certainly a low point even in this company.
And then there’s Kingsley, sneering his way through a part that makes Ming the Merciless seem a masterpiece of subtlety. One can only hope that the paycheck makes up for the insult to his resume.
What “BloodRayne” proves beyond the shadow of a doubt is that, in theatres at least, vampires aren’t the real danger; it’s anything with Uwe Boll’s name attached to it.