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Uwe Boll Productions presents
"I beseech you to put away all grudges for the good of humanity. It pains me to admit that our beloved but weakened Brimstone Society can no longer defeat Kagen, yet he must not be allowed to acquire Beliar's artifacts nor legacy."
DVD ReviewEvery school has a kid who gets picked on constantly, and in the movie world the parallel reaches to director Uwe Boll, the man most notable for making the less-than-well-received video game adaptations Alone in the Dark and House of the Dead. Take a quick glance at nearly any internet movie message board, do a search on Boll, and you'll no doubt find pages of unabashed vitriol, as if he has somehow become the poster child for everything that's wrong with the horror/fantasy genre.
If I was Boll, I'd either change my name or be so discouraged I'd drink myself to death, but he keeps cranking them out, with no less than three additional video game adaptations in the works.
BloodRayne—presented here as an unrated director's cut—is his latest video game treatment, this time about a medieval-era blood-hungry vampire/human hybrid (aka a dhamphir) named Rayne (Kristanna Loken) who has to ultimately do battle against her evil vamp daddy Kagen (Ben Kingsley—yes, I said Ben Kingsley) to save humanity. Rayne has been unjustly imprisoned in a grubby traveling sideshow ("the freak of all freaks!"), and when she eventually busts out she hooks up with a trio of roguish adventurers (Michael Madsen, Michelle Rodriguez, Matthew Davis) also determined to stop Kagen.
I'm more of a Donkey Kong-type, so I have never played the game (though the full version of BloodRayne 2 is included with this release), so I have no way to know how closely this parallels the original source. The film does play out like a game, with battles, obstacles and items that must be retrieved, all leading to the big confrontation. And what fantasy title would be complete without a wealth of talk about prophecies and talismans? But what kind of makes this one perhaps a little curious is the involvement of German splatter director Olaf Ittenbach, who provides the gallons of spewing blood and severed body parts that litter every fight scene, which is clearly where Boll earns his "unrated" label.
The level of acting is all over the map here, ranging from acceptable to terrible. Michael Madsen and Michelle Rodriguez—a couple of actors I generally enjoy watching—move and speak with an embarrassing stiffness, as if they had just been handed there dialogue seconds before, and it's almost laughable. No wait, it is laughable. Loken gets off a little easier, with her Rayne character limited to minimal dialogue and a push-up leather vest (one that comes off during a very jiggly sex-against-the-jaildoor-bars scene with Matthew Davis), and Kingsley slums it nicely as the furrowed-brow baddie, delivering an appropriately campy performance that seems to be built around him opening his eyes very wide. Billy Zane slips in what amounts to a movie-stealing cameo as the fey Elrich—some kind of secondary villain that is never fully developed—and his dictation scene has the kind of wink-wink humor the rest of the film needed; likewise with Meat Loaf Aday as a horny vamp in a bad wig.
So let's check our notes: video game adaptation and questionable acting. Not exactly the one-two punch to make me salivate, and this certainly isn't a great film, but it's not like Boll was working with grade-A material in the first place. He tries to dress it up with a few too many sweeping Lord of the Rings-style overhead shots of characters on a long journey across mountains or fields, but it sometimes just feels like filler. We get the obligatory training montage, with Loken twirling blades around like a pro, and the vamps look like extras from Buffy The Vampire Slayer.
Still, for all its cobbling of the familiar, BloodRayne is a violent, mindless timewaster (re: embarrassingly enjoyable) delivering choreographed swordplay, hungry vampires and bad dialogue, and if you're in the right frame of mind for B-movie escapism (re: you have a few beers in you), it's a fun way to kill 108 minutes. I can easily see this becoming one of those films people don't want to admit having watched, let alone liked, especially in a purely guilty pleasure sort of way. Even with Madsen and Rodriguez.
Rating for Style: B-
Rating for Substance: C+
Image Transfer Review: BloodRayne has been issued in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen, and has been squeezed down from its original 2:35:1 theatrical presentation. Once you get past the aspect ratio question the transfer itself is actually above par without being an eye popper, especially considering Boll's budget limitations. There are some very minor grain issues here and there, and actually little in the way of any negligible compression or artifacting problems. The image quality is overall sharp and well-defined, colors and fleshtones look very natural, and black levels are generally solid.
Image Transfer Grade: B
Audio Transfer Review: Audio is available in a pair of English language tracks, either in 2.0 stereo or Dolby Digital 5.1 surround. Use the stereo option as a last resort, because the 5.1 provides an aggressive (though occasionally sloppy) experience that slathers on rear channel cues in an effort to make us forget Michael Madsen's wooden line deliveries. Bottom-end presence delivers some decent whoomps, but isn't as completely overbearing as it could have been, while voice clarity is sometimes buried amidst sound effects and the score.
Audio Transfer Grade: B-
Disc ExtrasFull Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 12 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Uwe Boll, Shawn Williamson, Will Sanderson, Kristanna Loken, Bryan C. Knight
Packaging: generic plastic two-disc keepc
Extras begin with a commentary track from writer/director Uwe Boll, producer Shawn Williamson, second unit director Bryan C. Knight and cast members Will Sanderson and Kristanna Loken. Boll understandably holds court about the production, with sporadic comments from the others, and the interaction between the participants is very conversational and easy to listen to, though there are a number of silent passages as if the mikes were turned off. The level of content isn't particularly deep—and some of it just reiterates what's onscreen ("there's Michelle Rodriguez on a horse")—but some of the location stories are fairly interesting. Boll even admits that some of the gore is a little over the top, but steadfastly insists that a PG version would have been a joke.
CGI Making of the Film (05m:20s) is the clunky title for a nonanamorphic widescreen look at a series of effects sequences, presented with the various layers used to create the final product. There's no sound, which is odd, and at five minutes it's just about right. On the other end of the spectrum is Dinner With Uwe Boll (47m:35s), a rather long, interview-while-they-eat piece presented in anamorphic widescreen, with the director fielding questions from a couple of writers (unnamed male and female) from IGN. Boll comes across like a personable guy, and it doesn't appear difficult to get him to talk enthusiastically about his work—he even mentions reading the IMDb message boards that mercilesly rip him. Bonus points for the female writer letting her hair down halfway through.
A few screens of storyboards and a theatrical trailer wrap things, with the disc cut into 12 chapters, sporting optional subtitles in English or Spanish.
The second disc is the full PC/DVD ROM BloodRayne 2 game, which, depending on your tastes, is either a good thing or a waste of space. Certainly more appealing than another EPK, the inclusion of the video game will no doubt make purchasing this for under $20 a no-brainer if you're a gamer.
Extras Grade: B
Final CommentsDumping on Uwe Boll has become something of a bloodsport on movie message boards, and sometimes it seems that his name is more of a target than his films. The guy's claim is making vid-game adaptations, so it's not like he's trampling on the ground of Truffaut or Buñuel, nor does he claim to. His adaptation of BloodRayne doesn't have much in the way of genre surprises, is filled with some just plain bad acting yet has plenty of blood, Kristanna Loken's bared breasts, and, yes, Ben Kingsley as a vampire.
A second disc featuring the full PC video game, BloodRayne 2, is included here to hook all the gamers out there.
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