THE BLEEDING is one of those films that owes a lot to other films. JOHN CARPENTERS’ VAMPIRES and BLADE came to mind while I was watching this one. It also reminded me of THE FAST & THE FURIOUS and maybe a hint of THE ROAD WARRIOR and, of course, HIGHLANDER. And while THE BLEEDING may not live up to those classic films (though it might be a stretch to call THE FAST & THE FURIOUS a classic), it does have a certain appeal that fans of those films will definitely want to take notice to.
All of the right elements that should make a kick ass action horror film are here, but in the end it falls just short of great. The positives of this film lay in the directing. Charlie Percini does a good job of making this film feel kinetic. Quick cuts, ballsy stunts, and an especially deft use of different film stocks and lighting make this feel more like a comic book film than a horror film. This isn’t a knock toward THE BLEEDING. The vivid lighting doesn’t go the gaudy Schumacher route, but really conveys a creepy mood, especially in the scenes of the vampire night club.
Unfortunately, the script Percini has to work with isn’t the strongest. Maybe THE BLEEDING is trying to be campy. Maybe things are being played seriously. The film shifts in tone from deadly serious to “are you freaking serious?” from one scene to the next and back again using action and horror clichés with wild abandon. Montages set to a grinding guitar score of our hero running up stairs with a full backpack and thinking and screaming about his destiny, sudden outbursts of anger from characters (especially Madsen), exposition that drops like an anvil: it’s all here by the truckload. If THE BLEEDING’s script is meant to be serious, it’s flawed. If it’s mean to be camp, it’s just not campy enough.
Like THE FAST & FURIOUS, there’s an attention to muscle cars driven by even more muscular men. A car doesn’t drive away, it peels out. Most of the shirts worn in THE BLEEDING don’t have sleeves on them. It’s the type of tone that oozes from every installment of the FAST/FURIOUS movies and it’s prevalent in THE BLEEDING. Or maybe it’s the fact that the film’s star, Michael Matthias, looks a lot like Vin Diesel that makes me think this way. Matthias plays Shane Black, an ex-Marine, who is searching for the killer of his parents and finds a den of vampires and his own destiny. One of the main problems with this film lies in the fact that Matthias looks like an action star…but, unfortunately he acts like one too. Who knows? Maybe Matthias has it in him to be a great actor one day, but his delivery of lines is pretty uncharismatic and his presence is stilted and wooden throughout. He does look the part of a tough guy, though.
Both Michael Madsen and Vinnie Jones chew the scenery here like they haven’t eaten in weeks. You can tell they’re having fun with the film and are playing it for camp. Madsen plays a cowboy hat wearing, tommy-gun toting priest who helps Matthias down his path of destiny. Jones is the main vamp and does his best to be menacing in a long black wig and leather pants. Both of these actors are used to playing tough guys, but not like this. Madsen is filled with quirk while Jones goes completely over the top as the baddie. Unlike DMX (who is as good here as he has been in all of his other films…that is to say, not very), the scenes with Madsen and Jones are a hoot to watch
The film begins and ends with a pretty thrilling action sequence as Matthias (in a rig) is being pursued by a ROAD WARRIOR-esque army of motorcycles and muscle cars driven by vamps. Like DRIVE ANGRY, THE BLEEDING is more of an action movie than a real horror film. There’s one scene of gore, but for the most part, the bloodletting is pretty minuscule. Far from perfect, THE BLEEDING serves to highlight some potential in Percini’s directing. Matthias may be good someday, but he needs to loosen up and stop flexing in every scene…and maybe buy a shirt with sleeves. Who knows what the guy could do with a better script. All in all this is a film that looks like an action movie in that it’s got the muscles, the babes, the stunts, and the cool cars. If it would have just taken a few cues from Madsen and Jones and taken itself a bit less seriously, it’d be some damn good camp. But I honestly don’t think that was the route THE BLEEDING was intended to take.