Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Dylan Dog: Dead Of Night (2010)

A Doggone Shame

I've never read the comic book series Dylan Dog, in which this film is based upon, and now I'm not sure that I want to. While I'm sure the comic book is just fine, Dylan Dog: Dead of Night is way too much of a love-it-or-hate-it type of film which has me curious as to whether the comic just didn't translate well to film, or if the series was in fact as badly written as this movie?

Set in New Orleans, Louisiana, the film opens with the murder of a wealthy importer, whose daughter, Elizabeth, witnessed the incident. Believing it was some sort of monster who killed her father, Elizabeth contacts Dylan Dog (Brandon Routh, Superman Returns) a private investigator who she is told specializes in these sorts of cases. Unfortunately for her, Dylan hasn't worked in the monster business for a long time following the death of his girlfriend, and mostly gets jobs looking for runaway fathers or cheating husbands. After Dylan finds the dead body of his best friend and assistant, Marcus (Sam Huntington, Detroit Rock City) in his office, he realizes that the situation is becoming personal and decides to take Elizabeth's case, reimmersing him into the secret underworld of vampires, werewolves, and zombies. In the process, Dylan learns that the powerful vampire Vargas (Taye Diggs, House on Haunted Hill remake) is on the hunt for a rare dagger that would allow the owner to bring forth Belial from the depths of Hell, allowing him full control over the demon's actions and wiping out both humans and other monsters in the process.

Easy there, circa 1999 Ichabod Crane
As you just read, this film, for the most part, isn't anything new. Guy gets offered job. Guy declines job saying he doesn't do that anymore. Someone close to guy is killed because of job. Guy gets angry; takes job. Guy discovers job goes far deeper than he ever imagined. Guy realizes former girlfriend's death is somehow tied into the story. Ancient relic will bring forth the end of the world. Guy ultimately defeats evil with very little effort. Roll credits. Dylan Dog treads on very common ground, which is unfortunate because the story could've been a fun horror/action/comedy if it were written better. Again, I have no idea if the original comic series was this bad or if it's just the film's interpretation, but Dead of Night definitely loses its appeal early on.

What's most shocking about the film is how bad the acting is. Routh is an actor who I've enjoyed in previous efforts (Scott Pilgrim vs. the World comes to mind), but he can't seem to understand how his character is supposed to act throughout the movie. He reads through his lines with a deep and raspy voice straight out of a bad film noir, and the poor dialogue doesn't help. When Elizabeth first answers the door for Dylan and asks if she can help him, he retorts with a low-voiced "No. That's what I do", which he says with such uncaring conviction, it leads me to believe he was actually trying to make that line sound as far from cheesy as possible. I love Taye Diggs, but even he can't seem to fully embrace his role as Vargas, mostly relying on playful, passive-aggressive banter to get through his sentences. Anita Briem, who portrays Elizabeth, also suffers as her Icelandic accent slowly emerges through many of her lines. I've seen her in other films where she's carried her role excellently, so I can only assume that Dylan Dog's biggest fault is in its direction by Kevin Munroe, who previously helmed 2007's TMNT.

Peter Stormare--somehow the best actor in this film
The highlight of the film comes from Huntington's performance as Marcus, Dylan's wannabe partner, who brings in all of the film's laughs with perfect style and comedic timing. After dying in the beginning, I was worried I had already lost the only redeeming factor to the film, but thankfully he returns in the form of a zombie, trying to cope with life as one of the undead. Whether his character is pretending to enjoy human food to get out of eating his new diet of dirt and maggots, or complaining about his replacement arm which is dark-skinned, tattooed, and fit with a wedding ring, Huntington brings a great presence to a film that desperately needed one.

The CGI isn't bad at all (this is a $20,000,000 film) and there are a couple of great scenes featuring mutant zombies and Belial's transformation, but it isn't enough to reward Dylan Dog redemption. A major box office flop (returning a gross of only a little over one million of its twenty million budget), Dylan Dog is a shoddy piece of cinema that creates a few memorable scenes and then tramples over them with poor acting, dialogue, and direction. And I've only seen the movie...I can't imagine what the die hard fans of the comic are going to think. If they love this movie, then I'm sure I'll add it into my list of things I'll never read, like The Bible or any book by Chuck Palahniuk.

Oh shit, did I forget to mention that this is former WWE Superstar Kurt Angle? Totally serious.
 2/5 Stars

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