BLOOD AND CHOCOLATE
Director: Katja von Garnier
Cast: Agnes Bruckner, Hugh Dancy, Olivier Martinez, Katja Riemann, Bryan Dick
MPAA Rating: (for violence/terror, some sexuality and substance abuse)
Running Time: 1:38
Release Date: 1/26/07
Review by Mark Dujsik
As if the idea of a werewolf version of Romeo and Juliet weren't amusing enough, the tone of Blood and Chocolate is so somber it earns inadvertent guffaws left and right. Since seeing the movie, I've had a few people ask how it is. The only fair response to give without getting into too many details—and, hence, having to dredge up memories of the movie—I've discovered is, "It's called Blood and Chocolate. How do you think it is?" The title (taken from a passage out of Herman Hesse's novel Steppenwolf) alone is silly enough, but folks, that's just the start. With its woefully shallow romantic leads, werewolves that aren't frightening (or effective at fulfilling their nature, for that matter), and an almost religious devotion to slow motion, one can pick and choose a favorite failed element of the movie and still have a baker's dozen or more left to toss around freely. The script's a veritable mess of clichés and dumb moments, and director Katja von Garnier's straight-faced approach only serves to heighten them. And this is only taking into account everything before the movie's final twenty-or-so minutes, which throws out so many ridiculous moments one right after the other, it's a laugh riot.
Ten years ago, a young girl watches as her family is murdered by a group of hunters who burn down her home. She escapes and returns to her family's native Romania where the now 19-year-old werewolf Vivian (Agnes Bruckner) runs through the city of Bucharest, leaping over and on obstacles as she goes. Why this draws no one's attention, I don't know. She lives with her aunt Astrid (Katja Riemann) and cousin Rafe (Bryan Dick, whose character is one and nothing else), and in spite of the girl's obvious disagreement with the situation, Astrid continues to mention that Gabriel (Olivier Martinez), their pack's leader, has his eye on Vivian. Every seven years, the leader of the pack chooses a new mate, and Astrid's term is up. After a rave, Rafe kills a girl who rejected him (there's the blood), and Vivian meets a young, human graphic novelist named, I kid you not, Aiden Galvin (Hugh Dancy) at an abandoned cathedral she regularly haunts. Despite his stalker-ish move of going to the chocolatier she works at (there's the chocolate), Vivian finds the guy and his interest in the legend of the loup-garou endearing.
In spite of the werewolf element, the first half of the movie focuses on the romance between Vivien and Aiden. For one being a werewolf and the other a starving artist on the run from the law, these two are a pretty vapid couple. She walks around with an eternal scowl, and he's comparatively chipper, telling the story of how he defended himself against his father, resulting in an assault warrant. And this is on their first date. Agnes Bruckner and Hugh Dancy lack chemistry, and both say their lines with the sincerity of ordering a sandwich. To be fair, though, a melancholy tale of werewolf/human star-crossed lovers has to be near the bottom of the list of material into which to put your heart and soul. Saving us more depressing getting-to-know-you dialogue, the escalation of their relationship is summed up in a montage of their walk through a fountain. Of course all poorly developed romances must have their stumbling blocks, and Tybalt—sorry, Rafe—provides it by squealing to Gabriel. Rafe manages to get Aiden alone in a chapel decorated with skulls. Aiden has no suspicions about the creepy locale of the meet (which makes him dull in two senses of the word). Lucky for him, these werewolves are pretty useless.
The werewolves, I should mention, are not the creatures to which we're accustomed; a loup-garou here is simply a wolf. They don't transform into beasts; they swan-dive and glow into them. The special effects team must have been proud of their results as there's a scene where we get to watch this happen over and over and over and over in slow motion. Speaking of slow motion, von Garnier even treats us to a slow motion grieving scene, and you'd better believe there's more slow motion when Aiden is chased by his potential lycanthropic in-laws. It's around or just before this point in the movie that one could get away with labeling it a comedy. Whether it's Gabriel becoming one of countless people who try to guilt-trip Vivian about her parents' death or Aiden's brilliant observation that "creeks lead to rivers," there's a lot of accidental humor in the movie's extended climax. I know; I took notes. Aiden kills some wolves with a silver butter knife. Gabriel's henchmen unload round after round at nothing but a vat of absinthe that becomes the means to their deaths. Best of all, Vivian is held prisoner in a car, and to escape, she opens the door the guards aren't watching.
There's more, believe me, but that last one is a classic bit of lazy screenwriting (Why have her captured in the first place if that's the best escape you can come up with?). For a movie so humorless, it's amazing how much humor can be found while watching Blood and Chocolate. The line from Steppenwolf, by the way, is: "I fear I hurried this way and that. I had the taste of blood and chocolate in my mouth, the one as hateful as the other." It seems all too appropriate.
Copyright © 2007 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.
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