UK Release Date: 3rd October 2014
Runtime: 92 minutes
Director: Gary Shore
Writer: Matt Sazama, Burk Sharpless
Starring: Luke Evans, Sarah Gadon, Dominic Cooper, Charles Dance, Art Parkinson, Diarmaid Murtagh
Synopsis: Young prince Vlad the Impaler must embrace the darkness of a supernatural power in order to protect his people against a brutal invading army.
The story of Dracula has been retold and remixed dozens of times since Bram Stoker created the character in the late 19th century. Cinema history is littered with portrayals of the bitey villain, from Max Shreck and Bela Lugosi to Gary Oldman and even Adam Sandler. Fast & Furious 6 star Luke Evans is the latest to don the fangs, in Dracula Untold, which could well be the most boring and disappointing entry in the vampire canon.
Vlad the Impaler (Evans) has escaped from the Turkish army and is now prince of Trannsylvania, married to Mirena (Sarah Gadon). He realises that the Sultan of Turkey (Dominic Cooper) is planning an attack and enlists the dark powers of a mysterious vampire (Charles Dance) in order to give him the edge in the upcoming war.
Luke Evans is an utterly vacuous presence at the heart of Dracula Untold. His performance is free of anything that would make it stand out from the A-list crowd, completely lacking in charisma. Evans takes one of cinema’s most interesting characters and sucks every inch of life – or death – from his undead body. It’s a marvel of blandness, echoed by the supporting cast.
| "Men don’t fear swords. They fear monsters."
The problem is that the audience is asked to sympathise with the central character. This is a man who has already sadistically impaled dozens of people’s heads on spikes, but he is positioned by the film as a sensitive family man who we should care about and indeed root for in the film’s final clash. Evans performance simply isn’t strong enough to make this work.
It doesn’t help that the action sequences are incredibly uninspired. Under the stewardship of director Gary Shore, they are standard skirmishes taken from the fantasy battle template, with black-grey visuals and wildly swinging swords. Evans roars indiscriminately throughout and Dominic Cooper does standard villain alongside him. Dracula Untold really is cookie-cutter filmmaking at its worst.
The only saving grace of Dracula Untold is in a scenery-chewing performance from Charles Dance. Unrecognisable, covered in make-up as the devious master vampire, Dance is terrifically hammy and genuinely brings the film to life in his brief appearances.
| "Most men reek of fear. In you, I smell hope."
Unfortunately, Dracula Untold is almost awe-inspiring in how boring it manages to make really interesting subject matter. The final scene sets up a franchise in the most bizarre way imaginable, ensuring that this won’t be the last we see of Luke Evans’ bland bloodsucker.
Pop or Poop?
Despite the intriguing notion of a different look at the most iconic vampire in history, Gary Shore’s Dracula Untold is a disjointed mess of cliché.
Luke Evans completely fails to make a mark in the lead role and, even with Charles Dance’s beautifully overblown work, there’s little to get your teeth into.
Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.