‘Renfield’ Review: Nicolas Cage and Nicholas Hoult Can’t Quite Save This Bloody Mess of a Vampire Comedy – Hollywood Reporter

It appeared nice on paper. Nicolas Cage as Dracula? It’s a job he was born to play; it’s a surprise it hasn’t occurred prior to now (sorry, Vampire’s Kiss doesn’t depend).

Renfield, Dracula’s long-suffering servant — or in vampire parlance, “acquainted” — tormented by co-dependency points and in search of assist in a help group? Sounds hilarious. An authentic story by Robert Kirkman, creator of The Strolling Lifeless? I’m there.


The Backside Line


Launch date: Friday, April 14
Forged: Nicholas Hoult, Nicolas Cage, Awkwafina, Shohreh Aghdashloo, Ben Schwartz, Adrian Martinez, Brandon Scott Jones
Director: Chris McKay
Screenwriter: Ryan Ridley

Rated R,
1 hour 33 minutes

So why does Renfield downplay these promising points and develop into such a bloody mess?

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The movie, stemming from Common’s comprehensible persevering with makes an attempt to capitalize on its traditional monsters IP, actually begins out promisingly. Renfield, performed by Nicholas Hoult, gives background details about his relationship with the vampire in his life, illustrating his narration with nothing lower than scenes from the 1931 traditional Tod Browning movie Dracula. Cage and Hoult are digitally inserted into the footage, changing Bela Lugosi and the good Dwight Frye, and it’s a complete kick. You end up ready to see if Zelig will make an look.  

After which Renfield exhibits up on the help group, headed by the pleasant, welcoming Mark (Brandon Scott Jones, CBS’ Ghosts), solely to seek out that his issues with Nosferatu aren’t precisely on the identical stage as the opposite members struggling customary poisonous relationship points. Up to now, so good.

After which, for some inexplicable cause, Renfield turns into, of all issues, a generic crime drama. We’re launched to Rebecca (Awkwafina), a New Orleans cop annoyed over being relegated to monitoring a drunk driver checkpoint as a substitute of going after the Lobo crime household that was chargeable for the loss of life of her police officer father. The group is led by the elegant Bellafrancesca (Shohreh Aghdashloo) and her hotheaded son Tedward (Ben Schwartz, clearly having fun with himself), the latter of whom ultimately finds himself encountering Dracula in his lair and gleefully changing into one in every of his undead minions.  

Ryan Ridley’s convoluted screenplay proves lower than partaking as Renfield and Rebecca wind up changing into unlikely companions after he saves her life when the Lobos’ closely armed henchmen storm a bar the place she’s searching for suspects. The rationale Renfield is ready to almost single-handedly decimate the gang is as a result of he features superpowers after ingesting bugs, a nod to the unique character that right here has been pumped up on steroids.

The result’s a seemingly infinite variety of graphically violent encounters during which the bodily unprepossessing Renfield manages to dismember his opponents at will, their numerous physique components, organs and limbs exploding in bloody CGI messes. Director Chris McKay (The Tomorrow Struggle, The LEGO Batman Film) leans into the gore with unabashed glee, however it rapidly turns into a case of diminishing returns; the closely choreographed sequences lapse into such absurd overkill that numbness units in.

The movie perks up dramatically at any time when Dracula makes an look. Cage delivers a virtuosic flip, embellishing each facial features and line studying with a wildly entertaining Gothic aptitude that’s someway concurrently chilling and hilarious. The actor, a Dracula aficionado (he produced the terrific Shadow of the Vampire, about Max Schreck, the star of Murnau’s 1922 traditional Nosferatu), has lengthy professed his need to play the position, and right here makes essentially the most of it. He throws in such scrumptious touches as sporting a high hat in a single scene, a nod to Lon Chaney’s vampire character in Browning’s misplaced 1927 movie London After Midnight. (It hardly appears coincidental that this movie is ready in New Orleans, the place Cage as soon as lived in a actually haunted mansion and is destined to be buried in a custom-designed pyramid mausoleum.)

Hoult can also be terrific, persevering with his penchant for ignoring his ridiculous attractiveness — nobody with cheekbones like that deserves to be humorous as properly — to play offbeat comedian roles. And Renfield is actually offbeat, particularly when he abandons his tattered, classic go well with to don a brightly coloured sweater and chinos to higher mix in with the populace. You possibly can wager that Dracula has one thing to say about that.

However the actors’ greatest efforts are thwarted by the drained plot mechanics, which decrease essentially the most attention-grabbing component, specifically the hilariously dysfunctional Dracula/Renfield relationship, and as a substitute emphasize the type of gangster film plot that may have appeared stale in a Thirties Warner Brothers movie. To not point out Renfield continually wolfing down bugs to realize super-strength like some demented Marvel character. Overlook the motion/horror/comedy stuff. All you wish to see is Dracula and Renfield sitting in a room collectively and speaking.  

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