Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Dylan Dog: Dead of Night (2010)


Not nearly as good a movie as it could have been, but not bad enough to be enjoyably so.  With a premise like "human private detective entrusted with investigating crimes involving the undead", you'd think it would be hard to go wrong.  Noir private detective movies?  Fun!  Vampires, werewolves, and zombies?  Also fun!  Mash them together . . . and the result should really be more fun than this.  The two main culprits here are 1) Brandon Routh and 2) the dialogue.

Brandon Routh is considered a very attractive man.  I do not dispute this.  However, I have yet to see him as anything more than this.  He showed the occasional glimpse of personality as the is-he-or-isn't-he agent/traitor Shaw on Chuck, and was extremely enjoyable as the arrogant, self-satisfied vegan ex-boyfriend in Scott Pilgrim v. the World.  But as a hero, he lacks depth.  He has no edges.  Not yet, anyway, and certainly not in this film.  There's a reason Humphrey Bogart is the quintessential private detective of the noir genre--he embodies that complex and rough-edged anti-hero.  Not exactly trustworthy, he is a good(ish) guy who is not afraid to do bad things. He is jaded and cynical and hard, but not completely unscrupulous.  Brandon Routh is none of these things.  We know he is tortured only because his flat, lifeless voiceover tells us so.  We know he has a past for the same reasons.  We know he is attracted to a female client because they end up having sex.  There is no noticeable chemistry to speak of.

The dialogue doesn't help.  Dylan Dog is clearly supposed to be the offspring of Sam Spade and Philip Marlowe, but in a world where the supernatural is not beyond the realm of possibility.  The darkness of the undead underworld and the dark world of the noir private eye seem like a natural fit, but that darkness is not just physical.  Hammett and Chandler were masters of dialogue and voiceovers, and their prose sparkled with zippy one liners and vivid (and unusual) descriptions.  The screenplay here is utterly lacking in clever writing.  The characters plod through the plot with no style, no zing, no wit.  There is no swagger, no incisive humor.  Real detectives may be unimaginative and dull, but we do not tolerate such stolidity in our noir detectives.  The better class of supernatural thriller also employs the zinger (as in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Supernatural, and others), as do the more enjoyable action films.  Indeed, the zinger permeates the world of graphic novels.  It is a mystery how the writers of a movie combining no fewer than four genres normally chock full of zippy dialogue could produce such a lifeless script.  The funniest lines (and that isn't saying much) were routinely assigned to Sam Huntington's Marcus (the zombie sidekick), and he went after them with gusto . . . but the lines weren't funny enough to sell the laughs he pushed for, and the end result was a distinct impression that he was Trying Too Hard.

Indeed, the lackluster script somehow managed to suck the life out of (heh) actors who normally produce better work.  Taye Diggs is uninvested and ultimately uninspiring as the vampire nightclub owner/dealer who may or may not be responsible for Dylan's troubles.  And the usually excellent Peter Stormare--an expert at the menacing and powerful foreign head honcho/mob boss--is utterly wasted here as the vaguely impotent and unfocused head of a werewolf family.

All in all, though there were moderately enjoyable moments, it was disappointing to see a premise with such potential produce such an unimpressive film.

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