When eating a fine meal, it is important to have a sorbet course before moving on to the main entrée. The purpose of the sorbet is to cleanse the palate so that the exquisite tastes of the chef’s handiwork on the main course can be properly appreciated. As the awards season approaches the same is true for those in the film industry; one must cleanse their palate so work on masterful cinematic accomplishments can be appreciated. In food this is done by the sorbet. In film, I personally like to use Uwe Boll films – an equally cold mush of celluloid that only serves to increase ones appreciation of other films by showing just how bad a motion picture can be.
For 2005’s Boll offering we have BloodRayne, another video game adaptation from the man who has destroyed House of the Dead and Alone in the Dark with previous films. Video game companies don’t learn from the mistakes of their predecessors however, as Boll already has film adaptations set up for Dungeon Siege and Hunter: The Reckoning with rumors of other popular titles entering the gallows line as well. Perhaps the CEOs of those companies just enjoy watching their million-dollar characters being reduced to meaningless fodder for film critics.
BloodRayne tells the tale of Rayne (Kristanna Loken), a vampire hunter in a medieval age a la Blade - that is to say Rayne herself is just as cursed as her prey. She is a “dhampir”, the offspring of a human and a vampire. Most of her kind typically die an early age, but Rayne has managed to keep herself hidden by eating the blood of animals and the occasional luscious vampiress, and by not even being aware of what she is until it is explained to her by a random fortune teller. Rayne may be attractive, nubile, sensual… um, where was I going with this? Oh yeah, she may be all of these things, but she isn’t exactly the sharpest stake in the garden. That’s why it’s a good thing she’s sought after by several wayward rebels who do know a thing or two and know who the enemy is – the ruler of the land, Kagan, who just happens to be Rayne’s vampire father. Together the rebels band together and prepare for the day they can fight against Kagan’s forces, which are lead by a cross-eyed human who has pledged allegiance to the monarch.
If that plot line sounds clear to anyone then you owe me thanks for sitting through the hour and a half film and being able to make that much sense out of it. The film itself certainly doesn’t make much effort at clarity. Boll throws characters, lands, locations, and organizations at the audience without ever stopping to explain who or what anything is, or how any of these groups relate. He just plows through the material hoping people will pick up information he doesn’t put in the movie along the way, and distracting the audience with boobs when he’s totally written the film into a corner. And there are boobs, the thankful part of the “R” rating the film has received. Put an oddball vampire character out there to offer sanctuary and then show some boobies so the audience doesn’t question where this guy came from, or how come it’s nearing night when the characters get there but they kill the vampire with daylight and then ride off into the midday sun. Throw Loken’s boobies in the audience’s face as she has sex with one of her companions to communicate just how lusty she’s feeling. For my money, Boll could have just had the entire cast go around topless and there still wouldn’t have been enough boobs to make the movie make sense, but maybe it would have distracted me from the relentless score that never takes a break emphasizing the drama of the story, the illogical mishmash of Ren-fest costuming, the required blood spray that comes with any blow no matter what weapon deals it (the less thankful part of the “R” rating), or the question of how such a miserable director managed to get such an incredible cast to take part in his horrific creation.
For those who have been fortunate enough to not hear word one about BloodRayne, the cast is punctuated with a wide variety of actors, including Loken (Terminator 3), Michael Madsen (Kill Bill), Billy Zane (Titanic), Michelle Rodriguez (“LOST”), and Ben Kingsley (Gandhi). You would think with a cast that varied and talented Boll would still have a decent movie regardless of the quality of his direction and the script, but that’s not the case. The more prestigious the actor’s reputation, the less effort they put into their performance. I honestly think Kingsley might charge by the facial expression, because he only wears two expressions through the whole movie – stern and angry, and biting. Transitioning between the two probably cost more than Boll could afford despite his films merely being meant as tax write-offs, so any time Kingsley goes to bite someone the transition of the two expressions is done through speeding up the film quickly. Madsen sounds like Mike Myer’s “SNL” character “Lothar of the Hill people”, complete with over the top enunciation and a lack of contractions. Zane conducts his few brief scenes with a look in his eyes that makes him appear to be longing to return to “slam evil” in a follow up to The Phantom rather than complete his bit part in this movie. The rest of the cast offers on-again/off-again accents as they trod through a script that got them a paycheck and a free vacation in Germany – the best thing anyone probably got from this flick.
Despite its massive shortcomings, BloodRayne is the best film to come from Uwe Boll yet. Perhaps the recent tax law changes in Germany are forcing Boll to recognize he might have to make successful movies for a change, or perhaps it’s simply that you’re bound to get a few things right if you keep doing the same thing over and over. Regardless, saying BloodRayne is Boll’s best film still isn’t saying much. Between the sloppy cinematography, chaotic combat scenes, and everything else I’ve mentioned, it is still a notoriously bad picture any way you slice it. It is, however, an excellent way to cleanse the palate of film appreciation before the onslaught of Oscar caliber films.