Directed by: Timur Bekmambetov (Wanted)
Starring: Benjamin Walker, Dominic Cooper, Anthony Mackie, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Rufus Sewell
Can anyone tell me what kind of person goes to a movie called Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter and comes out complaining that it’s “preposterous” and “historically inaccurate?” Do you mean to tell me that the trailers and posters depicting old Honest Abe as an ax-wielding vampire killer didn’t clue them in that just maybe this wasn’t meant to be taken as an historical document? For that matter, shouldn’t they have inferred from the title itself that the movie wasn’t the epitome of serious drama? Apparently not. Perhaps the film needed to open with a disclaimer or wear its humor on its sleeve, rather than play its silliness relatively straight. Personally, I’d just assume that a scene in which vampire hunter Abe (Benjamin Walker) battles his arch-nemesis (Marton Csokas, Dream House) in the middle of a horse stampede and gets an entire horse thrown at him is meant to be absurd—which is to say I laughed at it.
I’m not saying that Abraham Lincoln: Vampre Hunter is a great movie, though it’s a lot better than I’d expected. In itself, that’s not saying all that much since I was prepared for it to be pretty bad. But in the main, I enjoyed it. I would have enjoyed it more if director Timur Bekmambetov hadn’t felt the need to Matrix-up the action. Yes, I know we can now speed the action up and slow it down in the very same shot. I’ve known this for some time now and I’m over it as a lazy effect. If you can’t convey the action and show me the point of your shot without recourse to it, you’re doing something wrong. (At least Bekmambetov never descended to the smart-assery of Wanted.) Then again, I suppose, a scene where Lincoln slams a typewriter at one of the undead with the letters flying off the keyboard to spell “f**k you” might have clued in the clueless to the movie’s deliberate preposterosity.
That said, the film is overall pretty strong in terms of structure and the laying out its big set pieces. The central notion of the slave trade being driven by vampires as a source of food is viable within the context of the film, and the 5,000-year-old head vampire, Adam (Rufus Sewell), is one of the most impressive villains in some considerable time. It is unfortunate that the film doesn’t trust its vampires to be sufficiently scary without giving them a mouthful of CGI choppers. This really wasn’t necessary and it really is cartoonish. All in all, the performances are strong. Benjamin Walker might not be perfect, but I can’t immediately suggest a better choice. Dominic Cooper as his “good” vampire mentor, on the other hand, is probably perfect for that role, but then Cooper tends to elevate every role he undertakes.
Make no mistake, this isn’t any kind of great horror picture, but it’s not a bad one. Taken on its own terms as a po-faced presentation of deliberately goofy material, it’s rather fun. But what’s next, William Howard Taft: Werewolf Slayer? Say, that might not be bad. Rated R for violence throughout and brief sexuality.