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  Publicity Stills of
"Blood: The Last Vampire"
(Courtesy of Festive Films)

Director: Chris Nahon & Chris Chow
Cast: Gianna Jun, Allison Miller, Liam Cunningham, JJ Feild, Koyuki, Yasuaki Kurata
RunTime: 1 hr 31 mins
Released By: Festive Films & Cathay-Keris Films & InnoForm Media
Rating: M18 (Violence)
Official Website: www.festivefilms.com/blood/

Opening Day: 4 June 2009


On the surface, Saya is a stunning 16-year old girl, but that youthful exterior hides the tormented soul of a 400 year-old “halfling”.

Born to a human father and a vampire mother, she has for centuries been a loner, obsessed with using her samurai skills to rid the world of vampires, all the while knowing that she herself can survive only on blood like those she hunts. When she is sent onto an American military base in Tokyo by the clandestine organization she works for, Saya immediately senses that this may be her opportunity to finally destroy Onigen, the evil patriarch of all vampires. Using her superhuman strength and her sword, she begins to rid the base of its evil infestation in a series of spectacular and elaborate showdowns. However, it is not until she forms her first human friendship in centuries with the young daughter of the base’s general that Saya learns her greatest power over Onigen may well be her ability for human connection…

Movie Review:

There’s plenty of bloodletting in Gianna Jun’s much touted Hollywood debut, the Korean actress best known for her breakout role in My Sassy Girl. Gianna plays Saya, a 400-year-old vampire hunter, also a “Halfling”- born of a human father and a vampire mother- on a quest to kill the vilest and most powerful vampire of them all, Onigen.

The grudge is personal- Onigen killed her father soon after she was born and also her mentor/ teacher Kato (played by veteran Japanese martial arts actor Yasuaki Kurata). Copious amounts of CGI-ed blood will spurt and spill; and arms, limbs and heads will fly- all thanks to Saya’s very deadly katana. Beware- there’s none of the sassiness that you’ve so fondly associated Gianna with in here- she’s more likely to take your head off than slap you across the face if you cross her path.

But whether playing a vampire slayer or an impertinent girlfriend, Gianna the actress still shows she has the chops, the kicks and the moves to impress. In Blood, she runs across rooftops, wields a lethal samurai sword and does a 360-degrees kick; and you’ll be amazed to know that Gianna actually performed many of the stunts in the movie herself. And luckily for her, with renowned action choreographer Cory Yuen on board, the action sequences here do not disappoint.

Not so fortunate however is her well-intentioned attempt to inject any sort of emotional pathos into her character Saya. Based on the popular anime of the same name released in 2000, which thus far has spawned mangas, novels and even a TV series, the half-human, half-vampire Saya is portrayed here wrestling between her humanity and her demonism. Not only is it a theme that has been countlessly recycled in such genre movies (Blade, anyone?), but here screenwriter Chris Chow makes little effort to make it any more inspiring than it is unoriginal.

Indeed, Gianna tries her best, but she is sadly let down by the insipid script that plagues this movie. So is director Chris Nahon, best known for directing the Jet Li vehicle Kiss of the Dragon. The noted French commercial and music video director displays a distinct flair for the visual and it shows in the many arresting images that this live-action anime adaptation boasts. Alas his movie is not helped by a pedestrian plot and aimless subplots (such as the internal conflict within the Council, an organization that Saya forms an uneasy alliance with).

The same goes for the mostly uninteresting supporting characters, including Alice, a teenage girl Saya comes to befriend and protect; Michael, the leader of a group of operatives under the Council; and even Onigen, supposedly the most feared and most vicious of all vampires, whose final showdown with Saya is surprisingly anticlimactic. By the time it’s all over, you won’t find yourself caring for anyone of them.

One other thing that could surely do with more work is the visual effects. Particularly dire are the almost laughable creature animation of the chiropteras (bat-like creatures that the vampires transform into) and the poorly rendered landscapes during the action sequences- especially one involving a truck down a deep ravine.

Gianna is undoubtedly the best thing that this movie has going for it. Still, it’s sad to see her energetic performance squandered in a middling effort that could have accomplished much more. As it is, this movie may have some teeth, but it certainly doesn’t have much bite.

Movie Rating:

(My Sassy Girl’s Hollywood debut satisfies your lust for blood and action- and maybe, Gianna- but little more)

Review by Gabriel Chong


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