In a very nice modern twist, the story of Count Dracula and his lackey, Renfield are still alive in 2023. They are running out of new homes and move to New Orleans. It’s a great setting considering the presence of Louisiana voodoo and how it could connect to Dracula. However, you do not see some of that, which is a missed opportunity.
In an abandoned hospital, Dracula (Nicholas Cage), slowly recovering from nearly being burned alive by the sun, plans his comeback for world domination. He relies on Renfield (Nicholas Hoult) to get him fresh bodies for replenishment. However, after 120-odd years, the former lawyer has become very weary. He abandoned his family for money and is now living in regret while co-dependent on his fanged boss. In AA-style group meetings, he deals with his abusive relationships.
Everything changes when Renfield gets caught in a shootout where a crime family looks to kill traffic cop Rebecca (Awkwafina). Seemingly the only clean officer in her precinct, she sticks her nose in their business. It is personal; her father, also a cop, was killed by the matriarch (Shohreh Aghadashloo) and her coke-head son (Ben Schwartz). However, Rebecca is continuously thwarted by the way-too-obvious corruption of her fellow officers. Renfield saves her life and wipes almost all of the enforcers, creating a connection and possible romance. However, the dedicated Rebecca later learns the background of her savior and is understandably confused and freaked out. Who would not be?
While the plot is too formulaic, Renfield is full of laughs and pours out every single ounce of blood from every person that gets shredded alive. Renfield is probably too indulgent in the blood-gushing department, but it is Dracula and Renfield, not Starsky And Hutch. I wished to see more of New Orleans, including above-ground cemeteries, Bourbon Street in the Latin Quarter, and jazz running the soundtrack. I also mentioned the way-too-obvious police corruption of Rebecca’s superiors. Everyone though? Corruption exists everywhere, but the only one who would be oblivious and not call it out is Inspector Clouseau. Rebecca is not him.
The screen comes to light when Cage comes on in daper form, namely the scene when he intervenes in the group meeting in the church. Past the B-movie phase (hopefully), he superimposes into classic Dracula films and turns into a collar-high action star. It’s a performance that would have been referenced in The Unbearable Weight Of Massive Talent. While Awkwafina spits out the comic value she always brings, the relationship between Rebecca and Renfield does not feel fully connected. She has no time to digest that the man she likes has been killing people for a very long time, is essentially immortal, and that he is now her only hope of taking down this crime family.
Director Chris McKay (The Tomorrow War) ultimately chooses to go straight into the heart and lungs – somewhat literally – and not down the stomach and intestines of the bloody chaos. It’s a brisk running time of 93 minutes, but it could have used another five minutes to expand a little more and let the film breathe. Despite the clunkiness, Renfield is a simple get-in-and-out story that doesn’t waste anyone’s time. It fills up the bellies of every gore-loving viewer to satisfaction…and reinvigorates life.
Brian’s Grade: 7/10
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