“Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter” Movie Review

    "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter" is the product of a hotly contested bidding war between rival studios for director Timur Bekmambetov's pitch to make a film based on Seth Grahame-Smith's novel of the same name.  The film is another mash up in the tradition of "Cowboys and Aliens", but is also a story which takes known historical events and alters what happened behind the scenes similar to "Inglorious Basterds".  As an original story, the film is a novel idea which might have been improved with a cast of more notable stars.  As is, Bekmambetov provides plenty of the same eye popping action sequences we saw in his U.S. debut, "Wanted", with producer Tim Burton's signature visual splendor ever present as well.

     As this story goes, we meet a young Abraham who witnesses a vampire attack on his mother.  Soon after, his mother dies and as he grows into his young adult years, he becomes obsessed with avenging her death.  Abraham realizes he cannot kill something which is already dead and solicits the help of a Vampire hunter named Henry (Dominic Cooper).  Now grown, Abraham (Benjamin Walker) is trained in the art of killing Vampires and quickly prefers an ax with a silver blade as his weapon of choice.  Abraham wields the ax with all the grace of a cheerleader swinging and spinning a baton.

     It's not long before Henry sends Abraham on a series of missions to test his new found skills and after completing each with little difficulty, he's finally allowed to go after his mother's killer.  In what has to be one of the most creative action sequences I've seen in quite sometime, Abraham chases the killer as both of them jump on and off a stampede of wild horses in an open field.  Both use the horses as cover and as weapons as they try to gain the upper hand.  You may recall Bekmambetov's scene in "Wanted" where he has a car flip over the top of another as Angelina Jolie fires a round from overhead.  This scene has that type of rush, but it goes on for several minutes and proves to be a high point of the film.

     There are other sequences in the film which are not as creative.  In one instance, Abraham is lured into a Vampire stronghold where the leader has his best men attack the President to be.  The slow motion combination of edged weapons and martial arts was very similar to several fight scenes in "The Matrix" films and these similarities give you that "been there, done that" feeling.  Sometimes a filmmaker can inject all the style he or she wants, but the end result normally can't help but be influenced by a better film of the past.  "ALVH" is always strongest when Bekmambetov takes advantage of the art direction a Tim Burton produced film will provide and stages the action within those realms.

     Ultimately, we fast forward to the point where Abraham is now the President of the United States and is dealing with the Civil War and the end of slavery.  Amongst the iconic speeches and Gettysburg war scenes, we find out the Vampires are fighting on the side of the South.  Because they can't be killed, the South is portrayed as having a distinct advantage on the battlefield until the main characters come to a logical solution.  In the film's climax, a train carrying bayonets and bullets made of silver is on its way to the front lines, only to be hijacked by the Vampires and their leader, Adam (Rufus Sewell).  Can the President pick up his ax one more time and make sure the train gets to its destination?  The outcome of the Civil War depended on it. GRADE: B-