Reviews are coming in for distinctively stylistic director Timur Bekmambetov’s “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.” While the slo-mo-then-ramp-up action sequences are impressing critics, the story is lacking in coherency as it melds 3D bloodsuckers with a particularly pernicious moment in American history.
“Vampire Hunter”‘s star Benjamin Walker was recently the subject of an interesting NY Times profile piece which, among other things, looks at the actor’s propensity toward tongue-in-cheek, 19th-century president roles. Before landing the part of Abe Lincoln, Walker was spotted by Bekmambetov in the 14-week run of Broadway play “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson” (he turned down the role of Beast in “X-Men: First Class” in order to do the play). Bekmambetov describes Walker’s historical leader-cum-hipster appeal: “At the same time as he was playing a completely credible, almost classical kind of figure, he also unmistakably had a Lower East Side hipster sensibility.” The actor is also married to Hollywood royalty: Meryl Streep’s daughter Mamie Gummer.
Justin Lowe, The Hollywood Reporter:
“The movie’s virtues and some of its miscues essentially originate with Grahame-Smith’s script. Taking the conceit that the institution of slavery was a vampire-motivated plot to provide the undead with fresh blood, Grahame-Smith adeptly connects Lincoln’s vampire vendetta with his anti-slavery crusade. Marrying this high-concept premise to a coherent narrative proves more challenging, however, as the tales of Lincoln’s vampire-slaying exploits make an awkward fit with the historical facts of his life.”
Tasha Robinson, A.V. Club:
“Problem is, even the action sequences don’t particularly feel real—particularly in 3-D, where the special effects on the vampires’ eyeballs look distractingly transparent and unfinished. The story is trying to ground fantasy in history, but neither one is used coherently enough to connect.”
Justin Chang, Variety:
“Bekmambetov, who proved himself a dab hand at vampire thrillers (‘Night Watch,’ ‘Day Watch’) before he directed the 2008 graphic-novel adaptation ‘Wanted,’ handles the violence in an arresting if flashily impersonal style. The early fight sequences, during which Abe impulsively seeks out trouble, have a creepily measured tension that largely vanishes in the later skirmishes, shot as a series of cool-looking but increasingly tiresome slo-mo ballets punctuated by eruptions of black blood (the scenes were conceived by Kazakh fight choreographer Igor Tsay and his Acting School of Fighting Kun-Do).”
Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune:
“It sounds fun. It’s a little fun. For a while. But Bekmanbetov shoots every killing spree like an addled gamer, working that slow-down-speed-up kill-shot cliche like a maniac. The actors, most of whom have a wry sense of humor (Rufus Sewell is good as Adam, the granddaddy vampire), contend throughout with a director with no sense of humor at all, only a sense of flip excess.”