Starring Ron Hall, Mel Novak, Gerald Okamura, Rudy Ray Moore, and a whole lot of cardboard boxes
Written & directed by Ron Hall
The last line of dialogue in Vampire Assassin is a voiceover by the half-human/half-vampire hero boldly declaring, “I am the first vampire assassin.” Excuse me? To utter a line of dialogue like that in a movie that shamelessly mimics Blade to the degree this film does, writer/director/star Ron Hall doesn’t just have a lot of nerve; the man has a lot of balls. Too bad he doesn’t have much writing, directing, or acting talent.
Vampire Assassin has been gathering dust on a shelf for a few years now awaiting someone to pick it up for distribution. Damn you, Lions Gate! Watching the movie it becomes apparent why it took so long to see the light of day. This is a cheap mess of a movie loaded with pedestrian action, stilted dialogue, wooden acting, a muddled plot, poorly staged scenes, cramped sets, bad editing, and vampires that look like zombie extras from House of the Dead that even Uwe Boll would have rejected. Vampire Assassin writer/director/star Ron Hall looks like a cross between Keenan Ivory Wayans and Don Frye. Now take a look at that hip hop guy with the sword on the box art. Hey, who’s that guy? Once again, Lions Gate shows how little faith they have in one of their direct-to-video movie by releasing it with deceptive packaging that makes the contents seem far more appealing than they really are.
It’s been said that a hero is only as good as the villain he opposes. This doesn’t speak well of our hero since vampire crimelord Gustav Slovak is the lamest movie vampire of recent memory. As a crimeboss, Slovak’s played like the kind of bad guy you’d have seen on an old episode of “Hart To Hart.” The moment Slovak enters into vampire mode, he behaves like a cross between a Mafia don and a cheesy magician. His only really noteworthy vampiric power is his cape that he can use to deflect bullets by waving it around almost like Wonder Woman with her bracelets. He can also make it fly around, and tossing it onto someone’s head can render them unconscious. And he has the power to make warrior vampires that look like extras from an early 80’s Italian-made Conan the Barbarian wannabe materialize out of thin air. He also does an awful lot of intense staring but I think that’s more of a personality trait than a superpower.
It should also be noted that whenever a vampire gets staked or decapitated, poorly animated lightning complete with an electrical humming sound sparks out them. Imagine Highlander “quickening” effects done on a PBS budget. This lightning is also the only spark the film ever gives off.
Slovak constantly jabbers on about whatever is happening in a particular scene. Exactly what he’s constantly jabbering on about is something I’m not entirely sure of. Words are coming out of his mouth but the meaning of those words is almost always vague. Just as dedicated cop Derek Washington is obsessed with bringing him down; Slovak is equally obsessed with Washington, although his exact reasoning for being so is not only vague but inconsistent throughout the film. Even as the movie drew to a close, I still didn’t fully understand what started the whole Derek Washington/Gustav Slovak feud or why Slovak was so obsessed with toying with the guy rather than just outright killing him, something he gets numerous opportunities to do. The two have several face-to-face encounters that never amount to anything other than some lengthy word exchanges, and after awhile I started getting the feeling these scenes were just excuses to pad out the razor thin plot until it was time for the final showdown.
Slovak also has the lamest origin of any movie vampire I’ve ever seen. He went from being a renowned vampire hunter to a ruthless vampire himself. The film opens with a prologue explaining how this all came about. Slovak’s attire, in addition to the whole look of this sequence, kept giving me flashbacks to the music video for Bryan Ferry’s “Don’t Tip the Ferryman.” After dispatching with some vampires that look like they came from an early 80’s heavy metal video, Slovak, for reasons that won’t be vaguely alluded to until much later in the film, casually dips his finger into the bleeding wound of a vampire he just staked and tastes it. Seriously, that’s how he became a vampire. If that isn’t the lamest origin of a vampire I don’t know what is.
A lame villain requires a lame hero. Derek Washington is such a hero. First rule of police work: when writing up your report about the happenings of a case you’re involved in, do not claim vampires were involved. Trust me; your captain isn’t going to believe you and will put you on mandatory leave.
After getting taunted by Slovak and mocked by his captain, Washington is approached by a female reporter for an internet news magazine that investigates the kind of news that real media stays away from. She eventually takes him to meet Master something or other, played by Gerald Okamura doing the usual Asian master bit complete with Asian master babblings and tests to prove his pupils’ worthiness. As he teaches Washington the art of vampire hunting, Hall and Okamura even attempt to engage in a few Remo Williams/Chiun style comedy bits, but like everything else in this film, it just falls flat.
Slovak eventually turns Washington into a vampire himself instead of killing him. This leads to Ron Hall donning a long, black coat and going vampire hunting with a variety of special weapons thus making Vampire Assassin the single most shameless Blade rip-off I’ve ever seen.
Ron Hall does have some nice moves but the uninspired fight scenes can’t rescue his poorly made movie from utter boredom. The fights are filmed in too cramped quarters and the choreography often looks too deliberately staged as if you expected him to say, “Okay, just like we practiced it” at the start of every fight scene. Even if this movie had been made 30 years ago when cheap blacksploitation kung fu movies were king and Blade was just an obscure Marvel comic book character most people had never heard of, Vampire Assassin would still blow. This is just really bad filmmaking.
Speaking of 1970’s blacksploitation, Dolemite star Rudy Ray Moore is billed as a co-star but he’s really nothing more than a cameo. He pops up twice for a combined total of about three minutes.
Vampire Assassin also features the most cardboard boxes seen in a single motion picture since Future War as nearly the entire second half of the film is set inside a warehouse full of cardboard boxes. I got so bored by this snoozefest that I began focusing on the cardboard boxes, actively wondering what the content of them were.
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