Even Honest Abe would tell you; there are a lot of“Matrix”impersonators out there. But I would be lying if I said Russian-born Timur Bekmambetov, director of 2008’s “Wanted,” wasn’t chief among them.
He takes Seth Grahame-Smith’s screenplay, based off his book, which uses America’s vampire fascination as symbolism for masters and slaves, and turns it into the best-looking movie of the year.
It’s on a quest to avenge his mother that leads young Abe (Benjamin Walker) to vamp Henry Sturges (Dominic Cooper), who becomes his trainer, noticing in Abe the chops necessary to stop the vamps from pushing from the South into the North.
With his axe, fortitude, and way with words, Abe rises to political heights and begins a Civil War to retain freedom for all. What we get here is the usual mix of slow-mo, gravity-defying, and gory blood, but this is breathtaking action staged with grace and excitement (like a battle fought on the backs of a stampede of horses) not the self-parody much of this stuff has become in other films.
The rest of the visuals follow suit. Atmospheric (uses a variety of colored tints, the best being a gothic dark-blue that at times frames the characters in picturesque silhouette), flawless set and costume design.
And unlike so many other pansy vampires, the make-up and effects here are made to frighten.
This all looks so good that the episodic screenplay falls danger of being overshadowed but Walker gives it some heft, whether awkwardly stiff with wife Mary Todd (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) or strong-willed in his resolve; and Cooper, Winstead, and Anthony Mackie, as his friend and freed slave, offer fine support.
There is more than enough reason to love what’s going on here, and this may even start a trend. “Charlie Chaplin: Nazi Assassin” anyone?