Directed by Stephen Sommers.
Written by Stephen Sommers.
Starring Hugh Jackman, Kate Beckinsale and Richard Roxburgh.
Release Year: 2004
Review Date: 5/10/04
The four of us left the theater.
Mike "Yac" Iacovone, salty: "Bell,
that movie was horseshit."
Ross "Halo" Stephenson: "Poo."
Chuck "The Verb" Longer: "Jeez, man. That was bad."
Justin "SoBe" Bell: "Those special effects were pretty
The other three looked at me, with that
sense of impending danger: could Justin possibly be thinking
that those special effects saved "Van Helsing", the new adventure
film starring Hugh Jackman, from legendary Hard Vice status?
See, Yac--like everybody else--loves the
Hard Vice. Needs it. Yearns for it. It's better
when he's around in the movie theater after I see a Hard Vice,
because my profanity (already bad in real life) is 62 times worse
when I have just left the theater, and for good reason: I just
dropped nine bucks; the least they could do is give me a funny line,
or one good action scene (like the otherwise horrible
"A Man Apart"),
or some tads, or something. Hard Vice is something
special...but, was "Van Helsing" really deserving?
"Look," Yac started. "There isn't a
single movie--comic book movie, action movie, sci-fi movie, horror
movie--that isn't somehow ripped off in 'Van Helsing.'"
Then Ross chimed in. He talked about
the sheer number of bad lines, the missing logic (Dracula's angels
can teleport at any time, but whenever they are getting shot at,
they try to outrun bullets, spikes, holy water, etc.), the bad
accents (what is Jackman trying to pull on us?), the fact that this
film was directed by the same man that gave us "The Mummy" and
Returns." (Ross didn't remember that Stephen Sommers also
gave us "Deep Rising." Yeah.)
Chuck looked at his watch at least half a
dozen times; at one point, Chuck asked me
"Yo, how long has this been going on for?"
My reply: "Three days."
The consistent use of special effects helps
justify a $150-million budget, but what does this add to the
equation? Like the similarly soulless
Helsing" relies on special effects so heavily that Sommers somehow
makes Jackman as uncharismatic as he has been onscreen, and the
normally sexy Kate Beckinsale is a sideshow. Every time
there's a chance at a decent action scene, Sommers blows it; a
sequence where Van Helsing and his merry gang travel from
Transylvania to Budapest felt as long as it might really take going
Those gaps in logic seem to span the whole
film. Van Helsing--essentially starring as Blade, for all
intents and purposes--seems utterly indestructible, getting maimed
all film long but getting up with nothing more than the occasional
scratch. For a place like Romania, you would think that
Transylvania would be a cold, dank place, but at times, it seems
like it's the fucking Amazon, with all of its ropes, chains,
circuitry and other forms of swinging devices for all of the
characters to continuously fall upon. Do the undead work for
Dracula? I didn't know that...I then wondered why Dracula
(played here by
star Richard Roxburgh) even bothered with recruiting a couple of
living souls each month; why not just take bodies from the
graveyard? Transylvanian horses--touted by one onscreen
character as "the fastest horses on Earth"--can also apparently
carry Santa and his fucking sleigh once a year too, since they can
damn near fly when faced with a fallen bridge. Jeez, late in
the film, Van Helsing takes on werewolf-like qualities...so, in one
scene, he jumps 20 stories into the air to enter a castle window.
In the VERY NEXT SCENE, rather than jumping up some stairs, he runs
around a circular staircase.
At every turn, the film gets worse.
After particularly devastating robbery--at the hands of the James
Bond films (you guessed it: Van Helsing has a friar that makes
weapons for him, curiously not named "Q") or after a werewolf
extends his nails ala Wolverine and scratches up a nearby
statue--you sit there shaking your head, thinking "How did test
audiences make this a reality??" And, there it is, right in
front of your eyes: sheer, utter dogshit.
And, friends, the Frankenstein character in
"Van Helsing"--from his makeup, to his gait, to his hilariously
overwritten dialogue--deserves a Hard Vice rating all by himself.
I can't tell you how many times he seems to preach about the loss of
humanity in the most improper of places...and then, five seconds
later, he is screaming and beating his chest like a juiced-up
Tarzan. The four of us were laughing every time he was
After I walked out of the theater, I also
realized that in addition to dropping nine for the flick, I still
had to pay to leave the garage. Insult to injury was starting
to make my ego hurt. My mind was drifting.
"So?" Yac was insistent. "What
are you gonna give it?"
Rating: Hard Vice
Comments? Drop me a line at
Bellview Rating System:
"Opening Weekend": This is
the highest rating a movie can receive. Reserved for movies that
exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development,
setting...or Salma Hayek. Not necessarily in that order.
"$X.XX Show": This price
changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently,
it is the $9.50 Show. While not technically perfect, this is a
movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.
"Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca",
but you'll have a great time watching. The $9.50 Show won't win any
Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see
"Matinee": An average movie
that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.
Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about
yourself. A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave
the theater saying "That wasn't too bad...man, did you see that
Lakers game last night?"
"Rental": This rating
indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your
friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one." Mostly forgettable, you
couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to
watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the
video store was out of copies of "Ronin." If you can, see this
movie for free. This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a
"Hard Vice": This rating is
the bottom of the barrel. A movie that only six other human beings
have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen. A Shannon
Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every
one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a
movie. Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or
"Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this
movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!
(Warning: strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard