"The monsters you read about as a kid, they're real."
Dylan Dog: Dead of Night harkens back to the classic noir private detective stories of old, and in my opinion it does so very successfully. The movie consists of a very particular blend of mystery, humor and the supernatural, a combination that reminded me very much of Jim Butcher's Dresden Files stories (of which I am a fan). If the movie has a failing, it is probably that it is centered on a niche character. Personally I had never heard of the series of comic books upon which the movie is based, so there is certainly no built in fan-base (or at least not a very big one) from which to draw support. As a result Dylan has dragged somewhat at the box office. It has also been critically panned with an average rating of 3% based on 30 reviews at RT (more on this later), which certainly doesn't help its chances.
The movie opens with our hero Dylan (Brandon Routh) working as a regular gumshoe having given up the supernatural life after the loss of his fiance Cassandra. He gets by on simple jobs with his new assistant Marcus (Sam Huntington). At least he does until he answers the call of a woman named Elizabeth (Anita Briem) who wants Dylan to investigate the murder of her father. Dylan initially turns her down when he realizes there is a supernatural element to the crime, but like all good detectives simply can't stay away for long. Circumstances quickly become clouded and it's up to Dylan to discover what is really going on, why Elizabeths father was murdered and how it's related to increased aggression between Vampires and Werewolves.
First off, Brandon Routh carried the titular role very well. He wouldn't have been my first choice for a supernatural noir detective story, but none the less he tuns in a good performance here. I think part of the success is down to the buddy cop dynamic between Routh and Huntington. The two play off each other well, and given that they are real life friends, they have a very easy going manner on screen that conveys a close friendship even when the movie doesn't have time to explain their past or how they came to work together. You might argue that Routh is a little to clean cut to be a gumshoe, and you may have a point, but there is enough comedic elements in this movie to offset the serious tone. In some ways it's very similar to Serenity in that it wildly shifts from fun and lighthearted to full on dark horror in the blink of an eye. Anyway back to the actors, special attention has to be given to Peter Stormare who once again steals the show even with very little screen time. I really love the actor, he does very good work and has a very wide range of performing ability. For example watch his antics in Armageddon and then immediately watch his turn as Satan in Constantine. In this movie he plays Gabriel, the patriarch of a werewolf clan Dylan has crossed paths with in the past.
Not quite as strong are the performances of Anita Briem and Taye Diggs. Anita is perhaps not entirely to blame for this in that she plays the typical two dimensional damsel in distress who must be rescued and cared for by our protagonist. As such she isn't given a whole lot of screen time, and her character doesn't get much in the way of development. I don't know, I just felt she was rather bland. Taye Diggs portrayed Vargas the leader of the local vampire house and as such was intended to be the chief antagonist. I rather think the head of a group of vampires should be imposing, sinister and even terrifying to some extent (see John Carpenter's Vampires for reference). I've never once thought of Taye Diggs as a villain. They tried to do it in Equilibrium too and he just doesn't have the right characteristics to be scary. I certainly wasn't worried about Dylan when he goes up against the evil vampire chief ... played by Taye Diggs. I have nothing against the guy, I just think maybe he should stick to the lighter side of acting, perhaps he should get a new agent or something. In any case these two characters/actors were the weakest elements in the movie.
Obviously the movie has been completely panned by the critics, as the 3% rating on RT would indicate. However, I'm going to argue that the movie has been unfairly treated. There is no rational way this movie should be scoring worse than Uwe Boll's Bloodrayne movie (which scored a 4%). I'm not going to stand here and argue that it was the greatest movie I've ever seen, because it certainly wasn't, but it also wasn't the worst (I actually saw Bloodrayne for example). One reviewer summarizes the movie as "entirely derivative and utterly wretched". There are certianly genre tropes all over this movie so yeah I'll give him derivative, but show me 10 movies in the last year that were not entirely derivative. Hollywood has run out of ideas, this is common knowledge. It's also why we see so many reboots, remakes and re-imaginings these days. Moving on to 'utterly wretched'.... now I'm just thinking this guy is trying to stir up a buzz word to get his review noticed. If I were to describe a movie as utterly wretched, I believe I would be describing something like Uwe Boll's Alone in the Dark or perhaps that fucking Alvin and the Chipmunks movie (yeah I know there's more than one, but really they're both equally dire). Dylan Dog has it's high points, it has a coherent story from start to finish, it has good chemistry between its leads and it has pretty damn good production values for the limited budget it was made with. So when I hear the words 'utterly wretched' used to describe it... I have to assume that reviewer is just being a dick for the sake of being a dick.
On the whole I thought the movie was good. It's not going to win any awards and it's not the most original story in the world, but at the end of the day it was a fun entertaining way to spend a Sunday morning. You'll be hard pressed to find this in theaters anymore. It was only a limited release to begin with, being based on a foreign comic book with a cult following, and with the abysmal reviews it disappeared pretty damn quick. I would still advise you to check this one out when it gets its DVD release though, rent yourself a copy and enjoy a classic noir detective tale in a modern setting... with you know, vampires and stuff.
Final Verdict on Dylan Dog: Dead of Night: