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Category:    Home > Reviews > Martial Arts Cycle > Horror > Blood: The Last Vampire (2009/Theatrical Film Review)

Blood: The Last Vampire (2009/Theatrical Film Review)


Staring Gianna Jum, Allison Miller, Yasuaki Kurata, Michael Byrne and Koyuki

Directed by Chris Nahon


Review By Emanuel Bergmann


Critic’s Rating: 6 out of 10



Chris Nahon's Blood: The Last Vampire has pretty much everything anyone could ask for: Mayhem, mystery, martial arts.  Not to mention katana-wielding femme fatales in schoolgirl outfits and guys in rubber monster masks.  A live-action version of Hiroyuki Kitakubo's highly popular Animé film, BTLV tries -- and for the most part succeeds -- in capturing the exuberance of Japanese monster-movie mash-ups.  It's a poorly-executed but highly entertaining B-picture, nestled somewhere between the ridiculous and the sublime.


Saya is a female half-vampire and demon-hunter with a heart of gold, played in barely understandable English by South Korean ingénue Gianna Jun.  Saya is an eternal adolescent, four-hundred year old, working together with a mysterious; clandestine brotherhood to protect mankind from various things that go bump in the night.  Her latest monster-killing mission has her disguise herself as -- what else? -- a Japanese school girl and infiltrate a US Air Force Base outside Tokyo.  The story is set at around the Vietnam-era, allowing French director Nahon (Empire of the Wolves) to indulge in some early-1970s production design and strained metaphors: As mankind is fighting senseless wars, an invisible war is raging under the surface -- the ever-popular conflict between darkness and light, man vs. bloodsucker.  Saya, of course, represents mostly light, with a tad of darkness thrown in for good measure: As a half-vampire she needs regular sips of blood.  Her great nemesis is Onegin (played by the Japanese actress Koyuki), an age-old demon hell-bent on destroying mankind and corrupting Saya.  To defeat the infamous Onegin, Saya teams up with Alice (Allison Miller) an actual schoolgirl and the daughter of an American general.  Together, they embark on a needlessly confusing adventure, a fun and ridiculously overblown payload of chase sequences, betrayals, reversals, flashbacks and, of course, an effects-laden showdown.


The film is a strange testimony to the power of globalization, or at least global pop culture and wads of cash: A polyglot group of largely unknown actors from South Korea, Japan, Europe and the US, under the guidance of a French action director, bringing to life a Japanese Animé on location in China's Yunnan Province.  The mélange is not always successful.  Ms. Jun struggles with her dialogue, and the ensemble never manages to find a cohesive tone.  The many sword fights are choppily and disappointingly staged by Corey Yuen (X-Men), and further impaired by the overuse of CGI-effects, substituting for blood.  The script, surprisingly, offers occasional pop-philosophical dissertations on the nature of good and evil. In one of the many flashback sequences, Saya asks her mentor Kato Takatora (Yasuaki Kurata) pointedly, why God -- whose existence seems to be sufficiently validated by the fact that supernatural creatures abound -- would allow his creation to be tormented by demons.  Takatora has no compelling answer, except this: We cannot know God's plan, but we must all play our part in it -- we must all do our duty.  The theme of duty and devotion to one's task is one of the more satisfyingly recurring themes of the script. Along with the usual banter of good and evil, loyalty and betrayal, and how -- if ever -- we can overcome our inner demons.


BTLV is trashy, fast-paced and often nonsensical entertainment.  For all intents and purposes, it should be a terrible movie.  Except it isn't.  It's no less entertaining than many of the overproduced Hollywood summer blockbusters, and much less pompous.  It doesn't aspire to much, but it hits its mark more often than it misses.  A fun, strange, flawed, yet very refreshing movie.  Imminently watchable.  A strange and exuberant piece of Asian pop cinema.


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