Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Blood: The Last Vampire

This ain’t Twilight. Pretty boy vampires would not last ten seconds with a slayer like Saya. While she might look young and innocent, Saya is actually around four hundred years old, and any undead standing between her and Onigen, the vampire queen, will taste cold steel in Chris Nahon’s martial arts-vampire film Blood: the Last Vampire (trailer here), opening this Friday in select cities.

Saya understands her prey only too well. As the daughter of Onigen and a human father, she also must drink blood to survive. Fortunately, she is supplied with bags of plasma by a mysterious secret society. They also tidy-up after each her slayings, which can get very messy indeed. Having discovered suspicious activity in the U.S. military base outside of Tokyo, those shadowy Men in Black send her in undercover as a new student for the American school. Of course, this requires her to wear a school uniform, following in the time-honored tradition of Japanese genre cinema.

Set in the late 1960’s, Blood has a very cool period vibe. Of course, that means as Saya wages her cosmic battle, the American military is also fighting in Viet Nam. Refreshingly, Blood does not try to make too much of that apparent irony, except for the snarling anti-American, anti-war remarks of one vampire, who happens to be thoroughly evil.

Frankly, the “girl-with-sword-hacks-up-undead-hordes” concept is darn near bullet-proof, and in fact Blood delivers some distinctive action scenes. At times, Nahon and action director Corey Yuen seem to suspend the laws of gravity, much as the Wachowski Brothers did in The Matrix, but the intricate choreography of their ultra-kinetic one-against-hundreds fight sequences are easy-to-follow and energizing.

Gianna, the Korean actress originally known as Jeon Ji-hyun, has tons of screen presence as Saya and is quite credible as an action figure. Liam Cunningham also brings a lot of salty character to the role of Michael, the sympathetic Man in Black. As for the evil multitudes, most are just there as grist for Saya’s mill, aside from Koyuki, the striking Japanese actress and model, as the supernaturally long-haired Onigen.

For the first two acts, Blood is a pretty satisfying exercise in amped-up, highly stylized action. Unfortunately, it largely falls apart during the overwrought, illogical climax, but that is more or less par for the course with this genre. In general, if a samurai-vampire movie based on an original anime/manga series sounds like your cup of tea, you will be quite content in Blood, in a fanboy-meathead kind of way. It opens this Friday (7/10) in New York at the AMC Empire 25 and the Loews Village 7.