PLOT: After being left for dead following the brutal murder of his parents, a hardened ex-Army ranger named Shawn Black (Michael Matthias) turns to a debauched, alcoholic priest (Michael Madsen) for answers. Upon learning of his destiny as a “Slayer”, a person of blood-kin with a vampire, Black (along with Father Roy and his lackey) sets out to wage a holy war with a race of blood-parched vampires who’ve been cast down to Earth. With an impressive arsenal of blessed weaponry, Black must showdown with a vampire king named Cain (Vinnie Jones) in an uprooted chemical plant turned night swanky night club. Will Black defeat the darkness, or will he himself become a fang-flashing bloodsucker?
REVIEW: Along his quest, Black runs into an assortment of sordid characters, including Tagg (DMX), a tattoo artist with way too many answers. Jake Plummer (Armand Assante, doing his Sly Stallone with a silver flattop); a detective assigned to finding the killers of Black’s parents, Lena (Rachelle Leah); a sexy-cool clubber who strikes an instant kinship with Black, and Crash (Pittsburgh Slim), Father Roy’s seemingly-stoned protégé. All of these folks lead Black to Club Mordam, the “hornets nest” of vampiric carnage and mass breeding (which, aside from pig-looking dude chopping bodies on a butcher’s block, isn’t all that gruesome).
Longtime stuntman, actor and occasional director Charlie Picerni does all he can with a $7 million budget and a sophomore script from Lance Lane (JUNKED), but I think the main problem with THE BLEEDING is, save for Madsen, the principals involved don’t revel enough in the unabashed b-level schlock the material calls for. When actors and technicians play such a script this straight-faced and honest, the result is often so hokey and ridiculous it’s hard to do anything but leer at the screen, dumbfounded and mouth agape. If however, everyone involved just amped up the over the top histrionics and political incorrectness, the blood, the gore, the frivolous, the unconscionable – the flick probably would have been a lot more fun.
Take for instance Michael Matthias (2007’s THE BOX), an action up-and-comer who, other than a lot of gauche jogging in the film, hardly displays Bruce Willis in his heyday type physical action. Sure he’s got the look: a cross between Vin Diesel and every oily, over-muscled Miami beach-walker you’ve seen – but he’s not really showing his chops in this one. There was one scene where the dude was firing double-Uzis from the back of speeding 18-wheeler that was pretty cool, but not a lot of hand-to-hand combat we’re used to seeing from action superstars. Vinnie Jones (who gets top billing), saddled with an atrocious Wicked Witch of the West wig, a Stevie Ray Vaughn hat and putrid American accent, probably only has about 15 minutes of actual screen time. When he does show up, he’s stuck in a perpetual scowl and pinched brow as if his life depended on a bowl of Metamucil. Too bad, Jones is actually a pretty good actor given the right material.
Technically, the film suffers as well. Instead of seamless transitions from scene to scene, there are a handful of weird optical montages, faux-artsy shots of the sky (with rain drops on the lens), shit like that just takes you out of the film pretty quickly. It’s like watching a Stan Brakhage film (thanks in advance to the one person who might get that reference). The look of the picture, and I’m not sure if this was from sitting in the third row, seemed grainy or washed-out, and not in the kickass ‘70s retro grind-house mien either. Not overly-amateurish, but definitely budget restrained. Which kind of comes as a surprise given cinematographer Tom Priestley Jr.’s resume on bigger more mainstream flicks like BLUE CHIPS and ABOVE THR RIM (which aren’t visual masterpieces by any stretch, but certainly more competent than THE BLEEDING. Oh, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that Priestley shot BEAT STREET back in ‘84 as well).
All in all, I’d say aside from a few laughs here and there (mostly provided by Madsen), THE BLEEDING has dripped most of its life away. Not very scary, hardly visceral, technically deficient, at times embarrassingly acted, the flick is lucky to be as entertaining as it was. I’d say the quick pacing and speedy runtime are actually positives, the flick ends before you have time check yourself and, like a pair of gussied up blondes at the premiere did, head for the friggin’ door.