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MOVIE REVIEW

Blood: The Last Vampire

Vampire action-schlock aside, this ‘Blood’ lacks bite

Saya (Gianna Jun) hunts for the vampire who killed both her father and her first love. Saya (Gianna Jun) hunts for the vampire who killed both her father and her first love. (Samuel Goldwyn Films)
By Wesley Morris
Globe Staff / July 10, 2009
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Anyone waiting for another installment of Stephenie Meyer’s “Twilight’’ or sitting on the edge of his sofa for a new episode of HBO’s “True Blood’’ might want to hold on. Don’t let the subtitle of “Blood: The Last Vampire’’ alarm you. The finale of this tedious piece of Asian-ish action-schlock based on a popular anime series implies an intention to make more. One was plenty for me.

It’s no fun not enjoying a story about a half-human, half-vampire samurai, especially one that appears to be aiming for vigorous nonsense. (“Blood’’ names a character Alice simply so someone can say to her, “Welcome to the other side of the looking glass.’’) The actors are uniformly terrible. Most of them appear to have been dubbed into English, including the English speakers. But the movie looks too slick for the school-play performances. A more homemade production would immediately lower expectations of competence. Nothing particularly original, exciting, or even noteworthy happens in “Blood,’’ even though it always looks as if something might. The movie and its literary symbols just hang over us like a piñata waiting to be whacked.

Saya (Gianna Jun), our samurai, has been sent to a US military base in Japan during the 1970s. Her mission is to protect humans from vampires and to find the vampire who killed both her father and her first love. For no particular reason, she explains all this in a long, narrated flashback: “Happiness and love was within reach,’’ she says. “But then the dark dream came.’’

Chris Chow’s screenplay seems to be out of fresh ideas before it’s really begun. Saya winds up in one of those new-girl-at-school plots. The base is full of American kids who think their new classmate is a freak - not because she’s a vampire but because she’s Japanese.

During kendo class, she winds up rescuing Alice (Allison Miller), one of her classmates, from a vampire attack. It’s the start of a dutiful friendship that, after what feels like hours, leads to the movie’s big showdown between Saya and the Japanese celebrity Koyuki, playing a serene vampire who wears giant sunhats and carries a paper parasol. These two hop from screensaver to screensaver trying to destroy each other. Backgrounds typically reserved for sleeping computers are now being tested on sleeping movie audiences.

Just about everything here feels like it’s been done better somewhere else, namely for material better suited for a Wii. For instance, the special effects of a sword slashing open a chest is like a sack of coffee beans being ripped open. (Evidently, they’re decaf.) “Blood’’ was directed by Chris Nahon but wants us to know that it’s come from “a producer’’ of “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon’’ and “Hero.’’ So if you’re thinking, “Man, that’s familiar’’ as you watch actors do impossible backbends to avoid the swing of an oncoming sword or leap around fake-looking landscapes in defiance of gravity, you’ll know why.

Wesley Morris can be reached at wmorris@globe.com. For more on movies, go to www.boston.com/movienation.

BLOOD: THE LAST VAMPIRE Directed by: Chris Nahon

Written by: Chris Chow

Starring: Gianna Jun, Allison Miller, and Koyuki

At: Kendall Square

Running time: 89 minutes

Rated: R (strong bloody stylized violence)

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