Columbia TriStar Home Video presents
The Breed (2001)
"Quit the Anne Rice routine. We're not amused."- Lucy Westenra (Bai Ling)
Stars: Adrian Paul, Bokeem Woodbine, Bai Ling
Other Stars: John Booth, Jake Eberle
Director: Michael Oblowitz
MPAA Rating: R for strong violence/gore, language and some sexuality
Run Time: 01h:31m:05s
Release Date: 2001-11-20
DVD ReviewThe Breed is set in the former Soviet Union, where FBI Agent Steven Grant (Bokeem Woodbine) is hot on the trail of the perpetrator of a bizarre series of vampiric murders. Working with the local security agency, Grant is teamed with Aaron Gray (Adrian Paul), a talented detective who also happens to be a vampire. Together, Grant and Gray uncover plots and counterplots designed to encourage and/or sabotage the integration of the country's four thousand vampires into society at large—synthetic blood substitutes, biological agents and political intrigue abound as they try to discover the truth of the matter. When Grant becomes romantically involved with a beautiful vampiress named Lucy Westenra (Bai Ling), his loyalties and preconceptions are seriously challenged.
Filmed in Budapest, The Breed takes full advantage of its exotic locations, with intricate spires and Old World architecture serving as a rich backdrop for the action. And the story concept has a lot of strong points—it's certainly not the same old vampire trope, and there's a lot of dramatic potential in the societal implications of a viable vampire population. Unfortunately, The Breed doesn't fully exploit its advantages—after an intriguing first act, the film becomes a standard-issue buddy movie cum political thriller, with vampires taking the place of renegade nuclear scientists and corrupt officials. There are some interesting background details—for example, we learn that Gray is a Polish Jew whose family was killed by the Nazis; he was given immortality to help fight Hitler's forces. But these colorful, thoughtful touches become lost in a morass of intrigue that plays more like a television pilot than a self-contained story.
The production is inconsistent as well—competent performances by Adrian Paul and Bai Ling (as well as several supporting characters) are unfortunately counterbalanced by Bokeem Woodbine's awkward star turn. Woodbine is a talented actor who has done fine work in The Big Hit and on HBO's The Sopranos, but he has a tough time delivering his profanity-laden lines here—he always seems uncomfortable with the dialogue, and his tendency to smile at inappropriate times makes it hard to take him seriously. Director Michael Oblowitz uses lighting and low, dramatic camera angles with skill and taste, but he makes some serious missteps as well. His arch, stylized treatment of the National Security Agency office, intended as an homage to Terry Gilliam's Brazil, is so completely at odds with the rest of the film that the agency's first appearance seems like a dream sequence. And some interesting secondary characters are introduced, then discarded, to the point that it becomes difficult to keep track of who's who. Some special effects are well-executed, with slightly sloppy but effective wire rigging and gore effects, while other sequences look cheesy and obviously budget-constrained. And the script's nods to vampire lore are sometimes strained—characters are named Graf Orlock and Lucy Westenra, for example, but the usage seems thrown in, with no irony or thematic import.
The Breed deserves credit for its attempt to use vampires in a different, more sympathetic and more truly interesting manner. Unfortunately, the finished film falls into the trap of another genre—it's ultimately just another conspiracy thriller, and not a particularly interesting one at that. For vampire movie completists only.
Rating for Style: B-
Rating for Substance: C+
|Aspect Ratio||1.85:1 - Widescreen||1.33:1 - P&S|
|Original Aspect Ratio||yes||no|
Image Transfer Review: The Breed arrives on a double-sided DVD—one side presents the film in a 1.85:1 widescreen theatrical aspect ratio, while the flipside presents a modified 1.33:1 version. The anamorphic widescreen transfer appears to be the intended ratio—the 4:3 version alternates between open-matte shots, with awkward empty spaces at the top and bottom of the frame, and pan-and-scan/zoomed-in shots, often where special effects are involved. The source print exhibits quite a few dirt flecks for such a recent film, and colors and lighting are often muted and drab, though shadow detail is handled well. The single-layer digital transfer seems to present the source accurately with no distracting compression artifacts, but the film has a soft, low-budget look, and the anamorphic transfer isn't dramatically sharper than the nonanamorphic full-screen version (which presents the opening credit sequence in letterboxed format). A competent presentation, nothing more.
Image Transfer Grade: C
Audio Transfer Review: The disc includes two English soundtracks, presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 and Dolby 2.0 Surround formats. The 5.1 track is impressive, with aggressive surrounds that place voices, sound effects and elements of the musical score prominently along the "back" of the soundstage, and substantial bass that lends atmosphere and punch to the mix. The 2.0 track (which is the default presentation, in a bit of a throwback to the early days of DVD) sounds very flat and simple by comparison, and is clearly intended for low-end systems—dialogue and music remain clear and audible, but atmospheric impact is greatly reduced. (Contrary to the keepcase copy, there is no French 2.0 track.) Well-mixed and energetic without sounding gimmicky, the 5.1 audio track is the most impressive aspect of this release.
Audio Transfer Grade: A-
Disc ExtrasStatic menu
Scene Access with 28 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, Korean, Thai with remote access
Cast and Crew Filmographies
1 Original Trailer(s)
4 Other Trailer(s) featuring The Forsaken, Bram Stoker's Dracula, John Carpenter's Vampires, Hollow Man
1 Feature/Episode commentary by director Michael Oblowitz and star Adrian Paul
Extras Review: Columbia TriStar's The Breed DVD features 28 picture-menu chapter stops, subtitles in 7 languages, and a number of standard extras:
The most substantial supplement is a running Commentary contributed by director Michael Oblowitz and star Adrian Paul. The two were recorded together, and they sound like old friends, reminiscing about the film's budget limitations, special effects problems, technical notes and conflicts with the producers. We're also given some insight into the script's evolution and Oblowitz's intended vision, most of which comes through in the final film, even if it doesn't always suit the material well. An entertaining and insightful track, with very little "dead air" and a commendable degree of honesty about the challenges and disappointments of low budget filmmaking.
Selected Filmographies are provided for director Michael Oblovitz and stars Bai Ling, Adrian Paul and Bokeem Woodbine.
The Trailers section begins with the theatrical promotion for The Breed, an R-rated "red band" trailer, though the content isn't particularly explicit. It's presented in 1.33:1 open-matte format with Dolby 2.0 Surround audio, and it runs about one-and-a-half minutes in length; it's a standard-issue trailer, notable mostly for the hilariously meaningless tag line, "The night has a breed of its own." Several other Columbia TriStar vampire titles are also featured, with trailers for The Forsaken (1.85:1 anamorphic, DS 2.0, 01:54), Bram Stoker's Dracula (1.85:1 nonanamorphic letterbox, DS 2.0, 02:30), John Carpenter's Vampires (1.33:1 pan-and-scan, DS 2.0, 01:37, and fairly graphic), and Hollow Man (1.85:1 nonanamorphic letterbox, Dolby Digital 5.1, 02:30).
Extras Grade: C+
Final CommentsThe Breed contains some interesting ideas, but the film ultimately sinks under the weight of stylistic inconsistencies and Hollywood clichés. Columbia TriStar's DVD features a competent transfer and some worthwhile supplements, but it's hard to recommend this vampire flick over its plentiful competition.
Dale Dobson 2001-11-20