Blood And Chocolate (2007)
Director: Katja Von Garnier
Starring: Agnes Bruckner, Hugh Dancy, Olivier Martinez
Release date: January 26 (US). Oooh, wolves, here we go! Never heard of it but that might be a good sign, right? I’m also painfully aware the Rude Gorilla is on a hat-trick. May contain wereponces and spoilers…
Vivian is no ordinary wolf-girl. She lives with a pack in Bucharest, passing freely among the human population. It has been this way for hundreds of years (shit, I’m starting to sound like a trailer voice-over). She is quite possibly the Chosen One who will bring balance to the Loup Garou. Vivian has been promised to Gabriel, the leader of the pack (brrrm-brrrm!) who takes a new she-wolf to be his mate – pardon me, wife – every 7 years (well, trades in for a younger model). It is not a destiny Vivian cares for all that much because she’s different, see (and she probably doesn’t fancy older beardy twats). The situation is complicated by the arrival of the all too human Aiden, a winsome graphic novelist who (I really must stop interjecting with brackets) becomes instantly smitten by Vivian, much to the pack’s displeasure. She too is experiencing typically girly feelings toward Aiden, feelings that are forbidden by her kind, like eeeewww…
Yeh, it’s werewolves-ish, but I’m afraid it’s all rather tame. Folk get a bit scratched up but nobody gets ripped to shreds and bloodily eaten alive. Blood And Chocolate lands somewhere between Underworld and Twilight, teeters hither & thither, then topples over into the Twilight zone. Unlucky… though some might say ‘whoever wins, we lose’ – but I bear no ill will toward Underworld meself. Vivian (Agnes Bruckner) works in a confectionary shop by day, hangs out with the pack in a hip club by night; “We’re romantics,” Rafe (Bryan Dick) tells her over a drambuie (or is it absinthe?). “We are nothing,” she replies. Oh my god, how dreary. One such night she slinks off and bumps into wet puff Aiden Fumbletrumpet (Huge Dancy). He’s in a church, which is adorned with symbols of wolf lore, sketching away. His next comic is to feature wolves in some capacity and she takes a shine to one of his lupine illustrations. To cut a short story shorter; love blooms. Loose cannon Rafe finds out about them and tips off Gabriel – well, he tells him a load of porkpies. Villainous Rafe himself goes to warn off Aiden and they end up in a handbags-type tussle – then the wolf comes out but luckily Aiden is wearing a silver pendant…
Blood And Chocolate is uniformly torpid and I’m not the target audience. ‘I’ve seen worse’ is about the best I can say for it. The transformation from human to wolf is more supernatural than physical; they don’t quite sparkle, it’s like an aurora effect. I mean, I’ve tried to reason it out in my head, Von Garnier’s perspective; violent wolf transformations are ten-a-penny, let’s do something else, let’s make it beautiful. That’s fine – but I’m not feeling it. The pack regularly holds a hunt in the forest. The inference is they only pick on scum, a drug dealer for example in the first instance. Humans are given a small chance to escape; if they make it across the river their lives will be spared. But no one is allowed to hunt outside the pack: “The day you hunt outside your pack, you are dead to it.” That’s not good news for Rafe for a start… They call themselves ‘Loup Garou’, they hunt when the moon is full but pretty much morph into wolf form whenever they want. Vivian demonstrates her agility through the streets of Bucharest, climbing up walls and whatnot; nobody bats and eyelash. I couldn’t work out whether or not the human population are aware of them and they co-exist – we’re told a couple of times if they overstep the line, kill too many humans, men will arrive to slaughter them. The film actually needs something like that to happen.
Neutered as it is, the action mainly involves people staring moodily at each other and/or spouting some toe-curlingly insipid dialogue… “Whenever I’m with you, I get the feeling you’re hiding,” the prescient Aiden tells Vivian. He doesn’t, it’s just a cack line the writers came up with and stuck in his gob, there’s no reason for him to think that at all. Then of course it’s time for the Falling In Love Montage™ which inevitably leads to the Love Rent Asunder Montage™. The high point in the movie is when Rafe lures Aiden to a secluded church, delivers an unfriendly warning to get on the first train out of Dodge or else and Aiden promptly nuts him in the face – howay, Jimmy, have that! I didn’t think the soft sod was capable! Anyway, Rafe transforms into a wolf and there’s a smart sequence with Aiden hiding in a confessional booth as Rafe chomps his way through the dividing screen to get at him. “I’ll take the train,” Aiden decides belatedly. “I am the train,” Rafe snarls. Apart from that scene there’s nothing to get your incisors into because the lacklustre kerfuffle at the finale doesn’t deliver much in the way of wolf-morphing or excitement. They just shoot guns at each other. Crap.
A stronger cast may have helped but to be fair, I doubt A-list would’ve been able to elevate the script. Chief bad blood Gabriel (Olivier Martinez) hasn’t got the necessary presence and he does nothing more than lurk in a vaguely menacing manner for most of the time and spout wolfly philosophy. Bryan Dick as Rafe chews it for all he’s worth but again, he doesn’t fill the screen with threat, him or his little cadre of hench-wolves. Hugh Dancy… it’s acting straight out of a ‘How To…’ manual; off-road a bit, mate, loosen up. Obviously director Von Garnier wanted a pretty boy and got one. She also wanted a pretty girl and got one of those too, but Agnes Bruckner fairs slightly better. She’s my kind of wolf. She can hold the screen and she pulls off a good couple of moments; when Aiden deserts Vivian in a rain-swept alley, she says his name then quietly breaks down. It’s a touching couple of seconds, almost buried by the preceding dialogue in which a clearly confused Aiden blames Viv for all the trouble and for not dumping him sooner; ‘kin hell, it was you who wouldn’t take ‘no’ for an answer, soggy chops! Then later, with Aiden hunted by the pack and armed only with a silver knife, he lashes out at a white wolf which was seemingly fighting another wolf for possession of the kill (from his perspective anyway). The animal collapses and transforms into human form. It is Vivian, curled up and naked, bleeding and she just says; “Please don’t kill me.” I felt that.
I’m wondering if, in preparation for the role, Bruckner watched Natassia Kinski in Schrader’s Cat People. Obviously, Von Garnier isn’t going to allow any overt eroticism into a ‘15’ and I’m presuming it’s not present in the young adult novel on which Blood And Chocolate is based. You feel there could have been more done with the ‘Vivian’ character, more of a struggle with sexual tension (mind you I reckon Bruckner would eat Dancy-face alive); she’s hot with the amber contact lenses in (or is it CGI?) and I can easily see her intimidating Aiden – a dual personality thing going on, to the point he doesn’t know which Viv is going to manifest from one minute to the next. But that’s not the story. She’s a wolf-girl who wants to be more girl for a change and she’s different from the rest of her kind because she can (Fanfare!) control the animal bloodlust within her. Great. Just keep her away from chicken coops and I reckon they’ll live happily ever after.
Right, I’ve had enough of that. Blood And Chocolate is there to be eviscerated but somehow, that long gestating, deep-seated cynicism of mine won’t engage the angry afterburners. It’s not worth the effort. Throwaway ‘meh’ aimed at the Twilight crowd and I think even they cocked a snook in its direction. There are a few nice touches but it’s utterly insignificant and guilty of some floppy plotting. Should’ve been harder and sexier. On yer bike, shimmery wolvies!
Score-wise, it avoids being flipped off by a gorilla on account of the confessional booth scene and Bruckner stealing a couple of moments (and my heart in the process).
It can have 1 Bilious Bella out of 5 and count itself lucky.
ThereWolf, July 2012