Dylan Dog: Dead of Night
DVD | Blu-Ray
Directed by Kevin Munroe
Written by Thomas Dean Donnelly and Joshua Oppenheimer
Based on the comic series by Tiziano Sclavi
Starring Brandon Routh, Sam Huntington, Anita Briem, Peter Stormare, Marco St. John, Kurt Angle, Taye Diggs
Originally Released: April 29, 2011
Kevin Monroe‘s take on the comic series Dylan Dog, first created by Italian talent Tiziano Slavi, only bears some resemblance to its origins, but is at moments a film based in fun with a wide variety of homages.
Added to Netflix’s streaming selection quite literally just before Thanksgiving, Dylan Dog: Dead Of Night is the category of flick to watch if you enjoy movies in the vein of Indiana Jones or detective mysteries. The feature is essentially a tip of the hat to old style film-noir detective/mystery movies, based within the world of monsters and the unnatural.
On the other side though, if you’re a fan of the Dark Horse English language version of the Dylan Dog comic, you might not be interested in this film version – or if you’re a fan of the original Italian comic series, then you’ll probably want to avoid this one completely. The surrealism of the original material is not in this film, and comes to the viewer as more of a parody of old-fashioned horror.
While that might be the nail in the coffin (pardon the pun) for the hardcore fans, people such as myself who have had very limited experience with the original Dylan Dog, will find it for what it actually is: a whole bunch of fun. There isn’t a lot of depth or subtext in this movie (the scene of Dylan looking at his reflection in broken shards of a mirror is probably as deep as it gets), so there is no analysis or dissection required – folks, this is a good old popcorn flick.
If one were to take a glance at the review coverage of this Dylan Dog film over at some of the aggregating sites, you’d probably turn away thinking this movie isn’t worth a look – but it really is. I’ve long been an advocate of film adaptations keeping closely to the spirit of the original comics, so while I was disappointed there were certain deviations from the source material, as a stand-alone movie, Dead Of Night truly kind of works well.
Brandon Routh takes on the title role, and on the surface seems to be ‘just there’, but he embodies the nonchalance and certitude of Dylan Dog reasonably well. He is reunited with Superman Returns co-star Sam Huntington, who takes on the role of an intelligent zombie (recently reanimated) sidekick. Essentially, Huntington provides the comic relief of Dead Of Night, and while some groan at the inclusion of elements in these movies, I actually found his side story/sub-plot highly amusing, and in places was roaring with laughter.
Dylan Dog is a private investigator, who once was a detective selected by the undead beasts to regulate the law of balancing their existence with the mortal humans of the world. For centuries (in the story) vampires, werewolves, zombies, and other monsters have “hidden in plain sight” amongst humanity, maintaining their existence as being concealed from the larger population, and Dog’s job is to ensure this delicate balance is kept.
After a traumatic personal experience involving vengeance, Dylan Dog turned his back on this hidden world, and “retired” into the life of a P.I. for humans as a substitute. His services are eventually requested by a new client, Elizabeth Ryan (Anita Briem), and the case causes him to be dragged back into the underground world he thought he had left behind him.
The story is essentially, like the Indiana Jones series, a McGuffin chase – in which Routh’s character is rummaging for an artifact called the Heart of Belial, a crucifix that holds supernatural powers, which could resurrect the demon of its namesake.
The film-noir detective ambiance of the movie begins quite well, but eventually evolves into Routh narrating directly to the audience. This shift is a distracting break of the fourth wall, and very noticeable, and Dead Of Night would have been served much better if it had kept the matter-of-fact detachment typical of the detective narrations. Some have criticized Routh’s acting in this film, though I actually found it fitting to the character – with the equanimity and indifference you would expect to see from a “cop who investigates the undead”.
As things progress, a few performances stand out – Peter Stormare (who has yet to do a film where I’ve disliked his acting) plays Gabriel in the movie and is highly entertaining and wonderful to watch. However, it is Marco St. John who plays Borelli that steals the show – his most animated and over-the-top act of explaining the significance of the Heart of Belial was magnificent. Exposition scenes like this in movies can often detract from the experience, but thankfully, St. John’s fabulous (but much too short) appearance helped it flow along nicely.
As you would probably predict, there’s a little influence from the Blade series in here, with fight scenes well balanced through the movie. The first half of the film has fights that are incredibly yawn-worthy – and are in fact, dreary. The poor choreography stands out, and some of the fights have conclusions that are either too quick, or unneeded – and they do lack the punch and impact of similar scenes you would see in movies such as Underworld or Resident Evil, for instance. As an illustration, the fight scene between Wolfgang (Kurt Angle) and Dylan could have been a much better sequence if designed with more suspense, and not so quick.
But when looking at the fight sequences in the last half of the film, it is like comparing night with day. They’re exciting, meshing well with both the plot and persona of the characters, without succumbing too much to the stereotypical Kung Fu / martial arts stuff that has dominated the previous decade of movies (thanks in part to The Matrix). These sequences are not too long, so they don’t overwhelm the flow of the story.
Still, despite my criticisms, I did find myself enjoying the movie. It is a hell of a lot of fun, and most certainly one of those popcorn flicks that don’t require too much thought. It does make you wonder, on the other hand, how much more impressive the film may have been if it stayed much closer to the spirit of the original comic series.
Believe me, though it does stray, Dylan Dog is not a horrible example of adaptations. It is worth a glance, because it is a film that doesn’t take itself too seriously. The amusing zombie adjustment scenes are worth some good chuckles – and it is enjoyable seeing Routh and Huntington working together on screen again. If you’re after a movie for simple enjoyment’s sake, then Dylan Dog is worth a peep.
Overall Rating: 3½ out of 5