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BloodRayne II: Deliverance
cast: Natassia Malthe, Zack Ward, Michael Paré, Chris Coppola, and Chris Spencer

director: Uwe Boll

99 minutes (18) 2007
widescreen ratio 2.35:1
Metrodome DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 3/10
reviewed by Jonathan McCalmont
OMG!! Worst Movie Evah!! Boll should be shot!! ..and so on and so on until the end. To review a film such as Bloodrayne II: Deliverance is not just to take on a rather cheaply made exploitation film it is also to take on the reputation of one of the most derided film directors in the world. However, for all the bile directed at Boll's films, I see little here that is truly hateful. It is not as vacuously pretentious as Nicolas Philibert's Back To Normandy, nor is it as smug as Jaume Collet-Sera's House Of Wax remake. It is not even as incoherent and dim-witted as Stephen Sommers' Van Helsing. In truth, it is not really very much of anything. It is a film in which remarkably little actually happens.

BloodRayne (2006) was based on a video-game of the same name. Drawing a surprisingly impressive number of famous faces (Ben Kingsley, Michael Madsen, Billy Zane, and Meat Loaf) it was set to launch Boll into the upper echelons of genre cinema until it was revealed that while the distributors had made up thousands of prints of the film, it would only actually open on less than a thousand screens. This combined with the film's reliance upon sex and violence as well as Boll's reputation for bringing rubbish adaptations of rubbish games to the screen made it something of a high-profile failure. Never one to be deterred by a bad review (in fact, Boll took on a number of his critics in a boxing match and beat them all) Boll has returned to the franchise with a different lead, a lack of recognisable faces and a clearly diminished budget.

Rayne (Natassia Malthe) is a vampire hunter who is half vampire herself. Having defeated some ancient evil and seen her friends die in the first Bloodrayne film she decided to leave Romania and travel. A hundred years after the first film we find her in the wild west on her way to visiting some impoverished peasant farmers who are apparently as close as she gets to family, though quite what this means is never explained. Upon arriving at the shack in the middle of the wilderness, Rayne discovers that her friends have been killed and their children have been kidnapped by an ancient and powerful vampire by the name of Billy the Kid (Zack Ward). Vowing revenge, Rayne travels to the town of Deliverance which she discovers to have been taken over by Billy's gang of vampires. After an initial skirmish with some of the locals, the wounded Rayne flees and is nursed back to health by Pat Garrett (Michael Paré) who turns out to be some kind of vampire hunter. The two then set about recruiting a group of scumbags and head back to town in order to confront Billy the Kid and save the town and the children from some ill-conceived scheme involving trains.

Bloodrayne II's most pressing problem is the fact that nothing much actually happens for most of the film. Exploitation films got their name partly because they exploit the audience's baser desires. Hence the fact that many traditional exploitation films were full of sex and violence. Unfortunately, this is not the case with Bloodrayne II as it features very little violence and absolutely no nudity. In fact, I really struggle to see why this film might have been given an 18 certificate except possibly at the makers' request. Instead of mindless sensation, the film is actually surprisingly talky as most of its run time is made up of people wandering about and posturing at each other.

Oh, the posturing... One of the more unpleasant aspects of the film is the casual misogyny of much of the dialogue. First, a character appears and informs Rayne that women are only good for preparing food and "keeping my dick warm," and then she is groped. In the same scene she is then groped again, this time by a character called Irish Mick (a name on a par with Jim Davidson's Chalky White when it comes to lazy and offensive stereotyping), she is then called a "cocksucking cheating bitch" and a 'cunt'. Later on she has to pretend to be a prostitute for the flimsiest of reasons and listen as a preacher (Michael Eklund) talks about 'sodomites' and "the moist swollen lips between a virgin's thighs." This bigoted posturing would be endurable except that the film's lack of actual action means that there's so much of it and it is used not only to introduce us to evil characters, but to supposedly sympathetic ones, too.

When the film is not being offensive in an attempt to compensate for its lack of sex and violence, it is making a stab at the kind of campy and pompous dialogue that geeks love to quote at each other and which has secured the cult status of lesser films than this. The best line of the film is arguably Billy the Kid's assertion that "the taste of despair is so much sweeter when it is torn from the cradle of faith." This is on a par with "Let their blood rain from the sky!" from Dungeons & Dragons but whereas the D&D film had Jeremy Irons to deliver its clangers, Bloodrayne II only has the stilted acting and preposterously ill-judged east European accent of Zack Ward (I mean really... since when was Billy the Kid Serbian?).

After about an hour and a half, the film finally decides to get into gear and we are given a big shoot out between Rayne's gaggle of scumbags and Billy's cardboard cut-out cowboys. In the DVD extras, Boll is quick to point to films he was aiming to emulate and it's easy to see the similarities between Bloodrayne II's grand finale and that of Clint Eastwood's Unforgiven, as both are incredibly low-fi and shot largely in the dark. These moments show that for all the vitriol directed at Boll and his crew, they are not technically incompetent. Rather than using the ever-popular hyper-edited bombardment technique to create a sense of excitement, Boll is content to allow the action to take place on its own terms. It is easy to follow and it has some genuine shape and excitement to it.

In fact, as emulations of Sergio Leone and Eastwood go, Bloodrayne II is not half bad. Where the film's action sequences are problematic is not in their implementation but rather in their conception. Sergio Leone's films were the first wave of revisionist westerns which served to deconstruct the heroic and morally simplistic worlds of traditional westerns. Eastwood's Unforgiven is an even more drastic deconstruction of these ideas in that it presents the west as even more amoral and its violence as even less cinematic. Quite why Boll thought this an appropriate idiom for a film about a hot chick who kills evil vampires with swords is completely beyond me. Whenever Maxim cover-girl Natassia Malthe pulls out her over-designed swordy-scythe-things she looks absolutely ridiculous and out of place against the gritty backdrop. Swordy-scythe-things cry out for stylised and choreographed dances of death, not nervous redheads self-consciously waving them about in a Canadian puddle.

The gap between visuals and theme are not helped by the fact that Malthe is arguably miscast as Rayne. This is no criticism of Ms Malthe's acting as she is arguably the best thing in this film, bringing a trace of humanity to a film peopled by scenery-chewing hacks. It is just that her looks are cute and clean cut and she does not look anything like a centuries old vampire hunter. If Malthe can manage to land a part in a Judd Apatow film then I am sure her career will justly flourish but she is just too much of a girl-next-door to play as violent and cynical a character as Rayne.

Bloodrayne II is not a bad film. It has a story that makes some sense, it has a few memorable characters and it has a few flashes of memorable dialogue. It is also well shot and at times quite atmospheric. If anything, the film inspires sympathy as its sense of frustration is almost palpable. Clearly, Bloodrayne II wants to be a big Hollywood action film. It is full of the kind of incessant and self-aggrandising hat-tipping that positively begs the viewer to compare it to other works within the genre. Indeed, you could probably construct a drinking game around the number of films mentioned by Boll on the commentary track and in the traditional on-set soapy tit wank making-of featurette. This desire to be a bigger film explains the dialogue's unpleasant over-compensation as well as the film's refusal to sink to character building or any of the other ways in which non-action films pad themselves out in between non-existent fistfights and car chases. It is as though, faced with the realisation that he only has enough money to film one sex scene, a porn director decides to pad out the rest of the film with the male character actually fixing the female character's sink.
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