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4 reviews, 9 user ratings

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Blood & Chocolate
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by Todd LaPlace

"Unfaithful adaptations can work too."
4 stars

I’ll admit that “Blood and Chocolate” doesn’t exactly look like a winner, but beneath the genre veneer, there lies a lot of unappreciated potential. Director Katja Von Garnier transformed the cheap chicks-in-prison structure into “Bandits,” an amusing German musical about a prison band on the run. Star Agnes Bruckner has scraped the bottom with dismal horror movies like “Venom” and “The Woods,” but her performance in indie sleeper “Blue Car” was so spellbinding that it earned her an Independent Spirit Award nod for best actress. Even supporting actress Katja Riemann has earned raves for her compelling turn in the Holocaust drama “Rosenstrasse.” “Blood and Chocolate” has got it all, without all of that pesky genocide.

For reasons that I doubt I will ever fully comprehend, my friend Lacey loved “Underworld,” that Kate Beckinsale movie about vampires and Lycans and one of Felicity Porter’s boyfriends. She thinks it’s the cat’s (vampire’s? werewolf’s?) pajamas. She, of course, would be wrong; it blows hard, largely because of its incomprehensible storyline that I swear requires an elaborate flow chart to decipher. Seriously, what’s that movie about? The two species are at war and Beckinsale is a vampire and Scott Speedman steals her away from the nice guy resident advisor before she cuts her hair and everything goes to hell, right?

Despite the fact that my friend has very, very bad taste in movies and is therefore severely deranged (she is just a med student after all), at least she is consistent in her devotion to action movies about strong female protagonists (which basically means she owns the entire Milla Jovovich canon). Perhaps that’s why I assumed “Blood and Chocolate,” the latest film from German director Katja von Garnier, would be a sure hit. It’s got werewolves (or more accurately loup-garou, the French equivalent), it’s got mindless action and it’s got cutie Agnes Bruckner as a badass werewolf. And yet, for reasons I doubt I will ever fully comprehend, my friend wasn’t a fan (I guess she thought it was fine, but she said it won’t be going in her collection between “Ultraviolet” and “Resident Evil”), therefore proving once again why I am smart and she should leave the critiquing to me. Don’t worry, Lacey, at least you’ve got that whole doctor thing to fall back on.

Bruckner plays Vivian, an American orphan transplanted to Romania to live with her aunt Astrid (von Garnier regular Katja Riemann). Still haunted by the memories of watching her entire family get slaughtered by mysterious hunters, Vivian is more than a bit mopey, although much of that might be attributed to the potential of an upcoming arranged marriage. Loup-garou leader Gabriel (Oliver Martinez) takes a new wife (or mate, as Vivian shrewdly observes) every seven years, and since the time is nearly up for his current beloved, everyone assumes he’ll chose the reluctant Vivian.

Von Garnier deserve credit for not taking this outline and not overthinking the fleshed out story. When creating a fictional society, it’s tempting to produce an elaborate social and political hierarchy within the group, and then to further create a set of new arbitrary laws and rules that segregate the faction from the rest of general society. Besides the marriage rule, the only law is not to murder strangers alone, which is pretty good advice anyway. But even these regulations don’t mean much; even Astrid comments that Gabriel just picked ones that suited his whims.

Vivian is pretty set, though, on not becoming one of his whims, instead developing a crush on fellow American expatriate Aiden (Hugh Dancy), a graphic novel writer and artist (not to be confused with a comic book writer and artist and yes, I am dorky enough to know the difference) working on a book about the loup-garou. Of course, this doesn’t sit well with Gabriel or any of his Eurotrash underlings, and the former dispatches Vivian’s cousin Rafe (Bryan Dick) to keep Aiden from getting too close to either Vivian or their secret society.

The key to truly enjoying “Blood and Chocolate” is to not be fooled by the werewolves and horror genre designation. This is not a slasher; in fact, it’s virtually gore-free. Instead, the film is most notably a gothic romance, which ultimately serves as an allegory for the late teen transition from child to adult. Most of the the loup-garou do little more than satisfy singular desires. Gabriel drives around Romania in his fancy sports car, basking in the adoration of his clan; Rafe scams on hottie tourists and then he and his buddies terrorize them with hollering and unseen acrobatics; and Astrid sits around her apartment, pining for Gabriel. And occasionally, as a group, the wolves gather to brew absinthe or hunt a kidnapped human, or as the wolves like to nickname them, “meat.” Vivian, on the other hand, never lets herself get to deep into that world, choosing instead to work at a local chocolatier, which puts her directly in the middle of human society. She’s a loup-garou by birth, but she may be the only one not scared of her own humanity.

Having earned raves in the little-seen “Blue Car,” Bruckner has already proven she’s adept at conveying subtle complexity, but never while being this much of a badass. Forced to don a perpetual scowl, Bruckner has a bit of Sigourney Weaver’s old flare; tough but incredibly sexy. Luckily, she does get to lower her guard a bit with Aiden, even to the point of smiling, and Bruckner proves that her softer side is just as sexy. The rest of the cast never manages to get past acceptable, often because they trip up on the somewhat hokey dialogue, particularly Dancy, whose laid back artist goes full-on Rambo in the third act.

It’s pretty clear that “Blood and Chocolate” isn’t some magnificent metaphorical reflection of contemporary society, but it’s also pretty clear that it’s not trying to be. One of the biggest dilemmas when critically reviewing movies is where to draw the line between art and consumerism. “Blood and Chocolate” is an extremely engaging, entertaining genre picture that deserves to be seen, but its message is a little soft. Annette Curtis Klause’s original story sets Vivian in an American high school and uses the werewolf idea as a metaphor for growing into an adult, but Von Garnier and screenwriters Ehren Kruger (the man behind the awful “Skeleton Key”) and Christopher Landon went more exotic by aging Vivian from 16 to 19 and tossing her into Romania, the lone loup-garou haven (much to the dismay of Klause’s devotees). But since the metaphor still works (and isn’t quite as on-the-nose as the teen read original), shouldn’t we take the cinematic “Blood and Chocolate” as a separate entity? And shouldn’t that entity be rewarded for crafting something creative and enjoyable? “Blood and Chocolate” may not be the new “Godfather,” but it is what it is, and I’ll be the first to admit, that’s pretty damn good.

By its very nature, it’s clear that “Blood and Chocolate” will not appeal to everyone. It’s a fantasy movie with werewolves, a bit of horror violence and romantic overtones. If it all seems contradictory, that’s probably because it kinda is. But it’s also kinda good.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=15585&reviewer=401
originally posted: 02/06/07 13:53:51
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User Comments

1/10/10 art this is not a horror film,it's a DIME ROMANCE NOVEL! 1 stars
5/30/09 davvh Agnes Bruckner has such a nice ass! 3 stars
11/28/08 Rebekah I really liked it :] 5 stars
5/02/07 David Pollastrini PRETTY DUMB 2 stars
4/05/07 William Goss A stupid story with a terrible title, bad acting, and worse effects. 2 stars
3/23/07 Wendy Carpenter Blood, sure, but WHAT about chocolate?? Still a sensibler than average werewolf flick. 4 stars
2/07/07 RKM This was a horrible, horrible movie 1 stars
2/04/07 steve owen perfect example of a movie name destroying box office receipts 1 stars
1/26/07 orpy not so bad if you're a seventh grader; they loved it 3 stars
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  26-Jan-2007 (PG-13)
  DVD: 12-Jun-2007

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