Combustible Celluloid
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With: Ethan Hawke, Willem Dafoe, Sam Neill, Claudia Karvan, Michael Dorman, Christopher Kirby, Todd Levi, Isabel Lucas, Mungo McKay, Emma Randall, Carl Rush, Charlotte Wilson
Written by: Michael Spierig, Peter Spierig
Directed by: Michael Spierig, Peter Spierig
MPAA Rating: R for strong bloody violence, language and brief nudity
Running Time: 98
Date: 09/11/2009

Daybreakers (2010)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Blood Works

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Yes, it's another vampire movie, but as last year's Let the Right One In proved, there's still some life in the old bloodsucking genre. The new Daybreakers stars out well as a vampire-noir, complete with a sullen, hat-wearing, cigarette-smoking vampire hero, Edward Dalton (Ethan Hawke), shuffling around in the cruddy darkness. It's 2019 and the vampire population has exploded, leaving very few humans around for food.

A corporate sleazeball vampire Charles Bromley (Sam Neill) harvests humans and sells the blood; he has armies of human hunters at his command. Dalton also works for him, attempting to invent a blood substitute to keep the vampire population from mutating into hideous creatures. But Dalton inadvertently meets a couple of humans, Audrey (Claudia Karvan) and Lionel 'Elvis' Cormac (Willem Dafoe) who actually have a cure.

The movie makes a sudden jump from grim shadows to sun-baked flats, souped-up cars and crossbows; in other words, it swaps vampire-noir for a violent, urban chase movie. Dafoe's "Elvis" character, with his trash accent and colorful innuendos ("it's as safe as barebacking a 5 dollar whore") as well as the tank-top wearing Audrey, changes the mood from stoic to badass. The director brothers Michael and Peter Spierig last appeared with Undead (yes, another zombie movie), an energetic, but uninspired mish-mash of borrowed ideas.

Daybreakers is likewise energetic, and it has more in the way of ideas -- including a nifty cautionary tale that makes 2012 look bloated and sad -- but the logic that ties them all together can sometimes strain to the point of transparency. It's fairly easy to blow open some of the holes, but it's also easy to be impressed by things like a special car, modified with video cameras so that vampires can drive during the day.

As the movie ramps up toward its chase-and-explosion climax, some of the sequences are as likely to inspire unintentional laughs as they are thrills. But the good news is that Daybreakers will probably have you by then. It establishes early that "anything goes," and it sticks carefully to that credo. If viewers can sink their teeth into that, they're halfway home.

Lionsgate's 2010 Blu-Ray release comes fully-loaded. We get a director's commentary track, a two-hour making-of featurette, and a poster art gallery and trailers for this and other Lionsgate films. You can also watch the storyboards and animatics along with the film. The disc even comes with a really cool short film by the Spierig brothers, The Big Picture (2000). If you have your player internet-enabled, there are even more bonuses. A second disc comes with a digital copy of the film.

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