I saw the anime that this movie was based from when I was a young adult, way back in the early 2000’s, and I loved it. It was grim, it was bloody, and it was very adult, but it did have one flaw: it was too short. It clocked in at less than an hour, and it left me wanting for more. Thankfully, this Japanese/American co-production have decided to make the wrong things right, keeping the dark and grim storyline but expanding more on the story. Like in the original, we meet a female vampire who kills vampires, something that is now such a cliché that it makes me want to vomit. Her name is Saya (Gianna Jun), and like in the anime, she’s asked to go undercover in a school at a military base, where she takes out a group of vampires living among the students. Now this is where the story based on the original ends, as instead of a nurse character, we get involved with a young general’s daughter named Alice McKee (a name probably inspired by a certain video game) played by Allison Miller (17 Again).
The story continues onto darker territory as we find out there is an evil head of the vampires named Onigen (played by Koyuki, from The Last Samurai and the Always films) who returns to the city to have her epic final confrontation with Saya. I happened to enjoy this movie version a lot more than the anime, even if it does have a few flaws. For starters, the characters are a lot more three-dimensional, as Saya is not just some quiet loner type, well she is but at least we get to know more of her past and how she became the way she is. The acting for the most part is pretty damn good, particularly from Liam Cunningham (Dog Soldiers) who is as badass as ever. However, the best part comes from the action sequences. They’re pretty badass, traditional kung-fu-samurai stuff, with lots of wire-work and slicings. The film is also excellent visual candy, as the cinematography contrasts from darkness to bright without losing any of it’s beauty. The flashback scene in particular, combining great wire-fu action and beautiful photography, is the best part in the entire film and is worth the price of watching it alone.
Sadly there are a few beefs to be had. For starters, I didn’t like the character of Alice. Allison Miller is not a very good dramatic actress and should probably stick to playing teen comedies. It doesn’t help that her character is as shallow as it gets and has zero importance or relevance to the story. It seems like she was just put there to please the American money men. It doesn’t help that most of the Japanese are talking English, a problem that has always been annoying since I saw Imprint and later Sukiyaki Western Django. All the ‘l’s are replaced with ‘r’s and it makes them sound like Elmer Fudd. It’s a particular problem at the end, when Saya and Onigen finally have their battle. That battle is also a let down, since it has so much build-up and it ends rather anti-climactically. The blood and gore is all CGI, ALL of it, I didn’t see any natural blood spurts and it fucking sucks. Why do people do this? It’s not like it’s cheaper! The monster vampires are kind of cheesy too, particularly when they’re in CGI form and look like video game graphics, although I must admit, I kind of enjoyed how goofy they looked. Still, this movie is a pretty cool action/horror hybrid that packs a few punches and doesn’t fail to entertain.