Director Chris McKay
Screenplay Ryan Ridley based on characters by Bram Stoker
Starring Nicholas Hoult, Awkwafina, Ben Schwartz, Adrian Martinez, Shohreh Aghdashloo, Nicolas Cage, Camille Chen

Ever since this remarkably funny moment in Vampire’s Kiss, the wait began for when Nic Cage could play Dracula for real. Over 35 years later, we finally get our chance to see him don the cape. The trick is, this film is not so much about the vampire. Instead it is about his familiar (a.k.a. servant), Renfield, played by the endlessly watchable Hoult.

At the start, we see Renfield at a co-dependent meeting held at a church in New Orleans where he picks off people who make the lives of the attendees miserable. Then Renfield takes them to an abandoned hospital for his master upon which Dracula feeds to recuperate from the last attempt on his life.

One of these episodes bring the Renfield into the orbit of Rebecca Quincy (Awkwafina), an excellent police officer stuck working sobriety checkpoints. She is working against a police force corrupted by Bellafrancesca Lobo (Aghdashloo) while her sister Kate (Chen) works for the FBI. Rebecca’s dream is to live up to the image of her father, who was killed by the Lobo organization.

After an attempt on her life by Bellafrancesca’s weasley son Teddy (Schwartz) is thwarted by Renfield, Rebecca and the familar begin a friendship that helps push him into a new sort of self-awareness. He starts a new life with the help of the church group. This doesn’t go over well with Dracula or the Lobos.

Rising from the ashes of the Universal Monster Dark Universe reboot, McKay has made a film more easily entertaining than The Mummy. The blood (and feces) fly with abandon, and the cast is a good time. Hoult is well cast as the woebegotten servant. Cage is playing the role as though his life depends on the blood of innocents.

The best performance belongs to Awkwafina. She’s coming into her own as an actress. She’s gone from comedic sidekick to a somewhat believable action hero. Her ability to crack wise while firing bullets is a strength that propels the story forward by making the hapless titular hero believe in himself.

The main thrust to the film is comedy. McKay knows how to make the most out of blood and guts without wallowing in the grotesque. The pace and the humor is frenetic, but it never loses its focus, which is saying something for a film with Cage on full on ham mode.

Plot wise, there are few surprises. The end has a pleasant twist that doesn’t belabor the viewer with the prospect of endless sequels. Giving us one solid story can be a blessing these days.

(***1/2 out of *****)

1 Comment »

  1. I could not agree with your concluding line any more than I do. A nice, self-contained story is incredibly hard to find these days. I look forward to checking this out!

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