Friday, June 29, 2012
ABRAHAM LINCOLN: VAMPIRE HUNTER Is Actually Pretty Sweet!
ABRAHAM LINCOLN: VAMPIRE HUNTER Review
- It seems that there are two kinds of people in this world - those who embrace the idea of a movie about a vampire-slaying Abe Lincoln, and those who are repelled by such an audacious mash-up of history and fantasy. To the second group of people ... well, to me those are the people who keep pop-culture boring. No, I don't want to live in a world where every movie cut from this cloth. But I'm happy to live in a world where Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter exists, and is somehow a big-budget summer studio tentpole. And you know what? This may not be a *great* film, but hey, it delivers on the promise of its title. It gives you exactly what you want from a movie called Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter, and it does so in highly entertaining fashion. I dug it.
One thing that's clear from watching this movie (if it hadn't been already), is that director Timur Bekmambetov (Wanted) is a certifiable madman. He fills this movie with a metric ton of crazy-ass $#%&, fully-embracing its over-the-top nature. It's funny, because I've heard people say that this movie takes itself too seriously, but I didn't find that at all. Instead, it hit a nearly note-perfect tone of B-movie cheese-filled goodness. I mean, there is a protracted fight scene that sees Abe chasing after a rogue vampire amidst a horse stampede, with the two adversaries jumping *from horse to horse* in pursuit of one another, climaxing in the vampire THROWING A HORSE at Abraham Lincoln. There is no way the movie takes itself too seriously. But Timur gives us plenty of over-the-top money shot moments, from the aforementione equestrian action scene, to some ridiculous-yet-awesome axe-fu from a not-yet-President Lincoln. At the same time, Timur brings the faux-gravitas when needed, treating the movie's Big Moments - like an aged Prez Lincoln digging up his old axe for one mo' bout of vampire-slaying - with a melodramatic sincerity that made me smile like a schoolgirl.
I also give a ton of credit to star Benjamin Walker. This guy is fantastic as Honest Abe. Like, this guy needs to be in more action movies, stat. He's got that mild-mannered Christopher Reeve-esque thing going on, where he nails Abe-as-awkeard-nice-guy, yet also grits his teeth and kicks ass like a boss when called upon. Even if it's sort of a silly role, I see this as a major star turn for Walker, as he is awesome in this part. The cast is also filled out with some excellent supporting-player types. Mary Elizabeth Winstead as Mary Todd is quite good - she's another actress who may bea bit under the radar, but who always seems to deliver the goods. Meanwhile, I've been a fan of Rufus Sewell since Dark City, and he is a lot of fun here is Adam, the Big Bad vampire adversary. Anthony Mackie is good as Abe's trusted friend Will Johnson, and Dominic Cooper - on a roll of late - is also excellent as Abe's enigmatic mentor Henry.
For the curious, the film basically inserts vampires into the Abe Lincoln origin story, positing that the undead had taken root in the American South, terrorizing the Confederate states and even playing a part in slave trade. When Lincoln's mother is killed by a particularly nasty vampire, a pint-sized Abe vows vengeance - but it isn't until ten years later that Abe learns about vamps - and how to kill them - from a mysterious mentor named Henry. So by day, Abe works in a shop, courts Mary Todd, and begins to become a player in the local political scene, preaching his late mother's credo that "until all men are free, we are all slaves." By night, he takes his special silver-coated axe and goes a-vampire huntin', carryong out seek-and-destroy missions given to him by Henry, all the while waiting for the day when he'll be able to find the vamp who killed his mom and wreak unholy vengeance on his undead kiester.
The movie spans a pretty substantial amount of time, starting with Abe as a boy, lingering on Abe as a young man (pre-iconic beard), and then delivers a super-fun third act with a 50-something President Lincoln forced to wage one last battle with his undead enemies, a battle inextricably tied to the ongoing Civil War. It makes for a surprisingly epic story. Yes, the movie can be a bit narratively jumpy, and tends to speed through a lot of key plot points (Abe and Mary's courtship, for example) ... but I mean, come on, this isn't Ken Burns' Lincoln, it's Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. I was okay with it.
Sure, the movie occasionally fumbles, or delivers a real groaner of a scene or line of dialogue. But mostly, it's all in good fun, and it hits all the right beats. The action is crazy and satisfyingly brutal. The cast is good. Even the ending is pretty much note-perfect in terms of how I imagined a movie like this might end. This is just fun, funny, good-time-guaranteed insanity at the movies.
My Grade: B+