Short version: Blood: The Last Vampire is a fun (if forgettable) film with some extremely well choreographed fight sequences. It’s really only for the action fans out there – anyone else may want to skip it.
Blood: The Last Vampire is one of those action movies whose faults can be overlooked in favor of some entertaining action. There are plenty of problems to be found here: From cheesy dialogue and acting to the sometimes fake-looking CGI. But when the movie is in full-on action mode – that is, a young woman in a schoolgirl outfit hacking up vampires – it’s a lot of fun. And the fact that it stands at a tidy 90 minutes will means it’s easily re-watchable.
Based on the 2000 anime movie of the same name, Blood: The Last Vampire follows a half-human, half-vampire called Saya who spends her time hunting those who are half her kind: Vampires. Loosely working with an organization known as “The Council” which devotes itself to the hunting and killing of vampires hiding amongst the human population, Saya enrolls in a high school on an American army base in Tokyo.
Proclaimed by Saya herself, the only reason she lives is to hunt down and kill the “oldest and most powerful demon,” known as Onigen, who she believes was responsible for the death of her father when she was very young.
Most of The Last Vampire seems like padding in between each action scene. The dialogue is pretty lame at times (sometimes downright eye-rolling), and the storyline doesn’t have much to it other than a generic revenge plot. It also suffers from some not-so-great acting at times, with an army general and one of “The Council’s” agents being particularly questionable in the performance department.
But does all that really matter in a movie called Blood: The Last Vampire? The name (along with all the promo material released for the movie) promises action, not an Oscar-worthy drama. And that’s exactly what we get for the most part: The action scenes are very well choreographed, which isn’t surprising considering the guy who is credited as the “action director” here is Corey Yuen, who worked on the first two Transporter films (which, if nothing else, were impressive in the fight scene department) and a few Jet Li movies. Three action/fight scenes in The Last Vampire particularly stand out, one involving Saya’s mentor battling a dozen guys in a forest, another being a sequence in an alley, and the last being the obligatory bigger-than-the-rest end battle sequence.
More buckets of blood than you can count are spilled in this movie (as you would expect with “blood” in the title), although the blood spattering is an area where the cartoonish CGI weakens the film. Perhaps it was on purpose that the blood should look fake to give the violence that cartoonish feel, but I would have much preferred if they had gone the Shogun Assassin or Kill Bill route and used spraying blood set up by real-life devices as opposed to creating it on a computer. But again, the way the action is choreographed, along with the fact that the movie doesn’t really focus on the blood all that much once it’s flying through the air, sort of makes that weakness ultimately not matter all that much.
I was afraid going into The Last Vampire that there would be an overuse of the wire-work style of action scenes we saw in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon or House of Flying Daggers. And although it’s used a little here and there throughout The Last Vampire, it’s never used too much. I don’t necessarily dislike that style of action, but personally it pulls me out of a film more than “realistic action” does (if you could call flipping through the air and chopping the heads off of vampires “realistic”). Most of the action scenes consist of swordplay, and many, many vampires and all other kinds of demons getting their bodies slashed and heads chopped off.
Playing the lead-killing lady, Saya, is Korean actress Ji-hyun Jeon, who is going by the more “Westernized” name of Gianna Jun for this movie. This is her first action role, and a big change from the type of films she’s mostly known for (romantic comedies and dramas). But she is an adequate lead, doing what needs to be done. Again, it’s not a role that calls for Oscar-worthy acting but rather the conviction that she can kick some serious ass… and trust me, she does so in spades.
What must be noted is the beautiful cinematography here by Hang-Sang Poon (Fearless, Kung Fu Hustle). It gives a nice, strange contrast to the bloody violence happening on-screen. At times the film looks cartoonish, but since it’s based on, yes, a cartoon, perhaps that was a purposeful homage to the source material. A ridiculously silly rooftop chase sequence aside, the cartoon quality of the film just adds to the fun a lot of the time.
So, even if Blood: The Last Vampire won’t be winning any acting or screenplay awards, it’s nonetheless a fun movie with some very entertaining action sequences. It’s an entirely forgettable movie and never is it what you would called “great.” But for what it is, it’s fun.
Was there really anything else to be expected?
Blood: The Last Vampire opens in the US in limited release on July 10th, 2009.