Sunday, June 7, 2009

Jeon Ji-hyeon Shines but 'Blood' Disappoints

After blockbuster vampire movies like "Twilight" and "Thirst", here comes another movie about those bloodsuckers. This time, hallyu star Jeon Ji-hyeon, also known as Gianna Jun, plays a half-vampire, half-human demon hunter in her first English-speaking role in the film "Blood: The Last Vampire".

Based on a popular Japanese anime film, series and manga, "Blood" follows Saya (played
by Jeon) as she tracks down and brutally kills those nasty demons in human disguise throughout Tokyo in 1970. Saya does the dirty work for a group of mysterious men in black suits, but she is on a personal mission to hunt down the "oldest and vilest of all demons" Onigen, who she blames for the death of her father.

The youthful but age-less Saya goes undercover at high school at a U.S. military base in Japan, even though one of the characters pointed out "she's older than all of us combined". She soon rescues Alice, an American student, from two mean girls who turn out to be actual demons.

Directed by Chris Nahon ("Kiss of the Dragon"), "Blood" suffers from a convoluted plot (especially for someone who has not watched the original anime), cheesy special effects and overacting from the supporting cast.

Some of the stunts are impressive but reminiscent of other Chinese martial arts films, which is probably not surprising since the film's producer is Bill Kong, who also produced "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" and "Hero".

The title "Blood" should be a clue for how much blood and gore is in the film, but much of the violence seems gratuitous. Do viewers really need to see a close-up of a man gruesomely slashed in half? How many scenes of demons being killed does the viewer really need to see to get that Saya is a fierce fighter? It probably would not have been as bad if the computer-generated effects were better.

Kong defended the violent scenes, saying the film needed stronger, edgier action scenes since it is competing with other action-packed TV series and movies around the world.

The film bombards viewers with non-stop action and violence, but the much-anticipated showdown between Saya and Onigen (played by Japanese actress Koyuki) lacks any real excitement.

Jeon is probably the only bright spot in this film. Clad in a Japanese schoolgirl uniform for most of the film, Saya doesn't speak much, preferring to hide her pain behind a tough, almost emotion-less facade.

Jeon delivers her lines in fluent English, although at times stiffly, while in comparison, Koyuki's thick accent makes it difficult to understand her lines.

Jeon, who gained fame for her role in "My Sassy Girl", also does well with the action stunts. In a press conference after the film's preview at CGV Yongsan, Thursday, Jeon admitted having a hard time preparing for the action scenes, but is pleased with how the movie turned out.

Kong praised Jeon for her commitment to the film, and even leaves open the possibility for a sequel.

"When we embarked on this movie, I asked Gianna whether she is willing to commit to doing a movie in English because this is very important. … The second most difficult thing was if she's willing to commit to the time to train to become the biggest action star in the world. It takes a lot of time and devotion and commitment. Looking at the film, I think she did more than we asked for. If there is any sequel to this movie, there's nobody else in the world that can fill the role better", he said.

"Blood", jointly produced by Hong Kong and France, hits theaters in Korea on June 11.


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