Cinema/TV, Dracula, Film Notes

Your Daily Dracula – Bai Ling as ‘Lucy Westenra’, The Breed (2001)

Your Daily Dracula – Bai Ling as ‘Lucy Westenra’, The Breed (2001)

An interesting minor vampire movie, set in an oppressive, Soviet-style brutalist America which borrows slightly from the look of Brazil and was quick off the mark in going for Matrix knock-off wirework fight scenes.  File it alongside Pale Creature, True Blood and Daybreakers in depicting human-vampire relations in an alternate world – which is here supposed to be the ‘near future’.

Cop Steve Grant (Bokeem Woodbine), angered by the death of his partner Phil (Reed Diamond) during a tussle with a super-powered murderer, is partnered with pencil-moustached Jewish vampire Aaron Grey (Adrian Paul), who represents an undead faction which would like to broker a treaty of co-existence with regular humanity.  There are about four thousand vampires in the world and they’ve only recently announced their existence to regular humanity because they can now survive on a blood substitute devised by community leader Cross (Peter Halasz).  NB: I looked it up – this debuted in July 2001, just three months after the publication of the first of Charlaine Harris’ Southern Vampire Mysteries, so it’s likely that The Breed just happened to come up with the same idea independently.

Accusing Grant of being a racist for his instinctive dislike of vampires, Grey helps the cop track the rogue, who seems intent on stirring up trouble between the two breeds of humanity.  Along the way, Grant becomes intimate with the spectacularly strange Lucy Westenra (Bai Ling), who lives in a mansion with her vampire panther pet and models a succession of bizarre fetish outfits, and encounters a variety of bloodsucking oddballs, before learning that perfidious and possibly genocidal schemes are afoot in both human and vampire camps.  Familiar faces like James Booth and William Hootkins show up as suspicious, fairly grotesque characters as the plot spins its wheels until the conspiracy unravels.

An entry in the fantasy-cop mismatched partners sub-genre (cf: Alien Nation, Dead Heat), The Breed creates an interesting world, using Hungarian locations and Eastern bloc art direction and uniforms to depict an unusual America while staging fairly effective flying-through-the-air-all-guns-blazing action scenes.  Woodbine’s weakly-written regular human hero is the weakest link, making less of an impression than the quickly-killed Diamond, who seems to be recreating his Homicide: Life on the Street role.

Grant could have been cut-and-pasted in from the James Caan alien-hater-who-learns-to-respect-his-alien-partner character of Alien Nation and is one of those handy heroes whose opinions and basic character see-saw according to the demands of the plot, but he comes off as a weasel rather than a protagonist.  Paul, star of the TV Highlander spin-off, plays another immortal haunted by historical flashbacks (to World War Two); he manages to invest a potential caricature with wry humour and surprising depth.

Screenwriters Christos N. Gage (a comics writer) and Ruth C. Fletcher reuse a gruesome gag from Gage’s Teenage Caveman cable TV script, with the hero sticking a grenade into a superhuman villain’s ripped-open stomach, knowing the wound will heal over instantly and prevent the baddie from getting rid of the bomb before its messy detonation (this gimmick was poached for Underworld: Awakening).

Besides ‘Lucy Westenra’, the cast runs to other Stoker-derived or Dracula-associated character names: vampire-hating security chief John Seward (Ming Lo) and vampire psychoanalyst Dr Graf Orlock (Istvá Göz).  There’s a Dr Bathory (Dianna Camacho) and (deep cut) a Calmet (Paul Collins) in there too, though I assume ‘Steve Grant’ is named after the comics writer (2 Guns).  Directed by Michael Oblowitz, who uses as many Dutch angles as the Adam West Batman show.


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