To get the modalities out of the way, Blood the Last Vampire — the live-action, vampire-bashing motion picture out now in worldwide cinemas, torrents and pirated DVDs — is an adaptation of a 48-minute anime (Japanese animation, known to local acclaim by Pokemon and Spirited Away) film about fast-paced vampire bashing.
Blood the Last Vampire is an infrequently interesting and characteristically inadequate retelling of the anime movie that keeps most, if not all, of the basic elements in check. We have an 18-looking, 400-year-old vampire hunter, Saya (played with captivating allure by Korean actress Gianna Jun, also known as Jun Ji-hyun), who kicks off the film by finishing off a would-be vampire in a lonesome subway car.
At the beginning, with no introduction of Saya's past, suspicion is inlaid by screenwriter Chris Chow (Fearless, starring Jet Li) and director Chris Nahon (Kiss of the Dragon, again with Jet Li), that after 400 years of demon hunting she might be losing her edge. Post this sequence, the film dispatches this crucial character development angle. Saya's backstory, which we see half-an-hour later, reveals an imperative (and predictably hackneyed) bit about her past and her rancorous pursuit of Onigen (played by Koyuki, internationally known for her role in The Last Samurai).
Blood is set in the Japan of the '70s, around the vicinity of Yakota Air Base, a United States Air Force base located in the city of Fussa. Saya, the vampire assassin, works (warts and all) for an organisation known passively as The Council, which ties into the CIA and is a specialist core that wipes out traces of her kills.
The vampires themselves are peculiar of the usual Bram Stroker folklore. Once triggered into transformation, they readjust into badly animated creatures akin to stone gargoyles. To save production money (the film is made in a modestly budgeted $35 million), only two characters actually turn into these creatures.
Usually human-like, these beasts are labeled as Chiroptera in the original Blood anime, a hematophagous bat-type beast with human intelligence and the ability to slip into human communities. How they assume identities and manage the paperwork is an uncharted territory in the film.
Nevertheless, they are easy to kill. Once cut (and there are oodles of blood-splattering cuts throughout the action-set pieces) their spray is an odd mixture of thick ooze with the look of candle-wax.
Getting back to the story, Saya is enrolled in Koto Public School — which caters to an all-American student body — and on her first day she comes upon and dispatches two vampires masquerading as school bullies. We are also introduced to Alice McKee (Allison Miller), a throwaway token character designed to balance the film for American audiences, which could have been a dead-weight if it wasn't as effectively woven into the screenplay. Miller doesn't actually produce sufficient magnetism as the boisterous and defiant general's daughter.
Blood splutters as far as action sequences go, and habitually there is one every seven minutes. Corey Yuen's (Red Cliff I & II, Transporter 3, So Close) Wire-Fu (wire works and kung-fu) choreography is at times predictable, bordering on uninteresting. However there is a glorious sequence choreographed in the colourful Japanese woods featuring a young Saya and her caretaker Kato (an indispensable Yasuaki Kurata). The cinematography and colour-grading by Poon Hang Sang duplicates the eerie feeling of the original Blood to a degree, while his shooting of skirmishes are almost pedestrian. But this is still better than the shoddy editing of Marco Cave, who undermines the pace, cranking and over-cranking (slow motion and speeding up of action to the layman) of even the most effective shots.
The lacking storyline and the anti-climatic nature of Saya's and Onigen's final fight is a major factor that guts down Blood, otherwise an average vampire fable based on a slightly-above average anime.
Blood the Last Vampire stars Allison Miller, Koyuki, Yasuaki Kurata, Liam Cunningham and JJ Field, is produced by Bill Kong, Abel Nahmias and directed by Chris Nahon. Rated R (I assume, for dreadful storytelling) — its only saving grace is the mysteriously captivating Gianna Jun in a dark-coloured Japanese school-girl uniform. Don't hope for a sequel, with its bad box-office performance, and don't rule out a direct to DVD release.