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'Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter' Movie Review

About.com Rating 2.5 Star Rating

By

Benjamin Walker as Abe Lincoln in 'Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter'

Benjamin Walker as Abe Lincoln in 'Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter'

© Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation. All rights reserved
Seth Grahame-Smith's entertaining mash-up of history and horror that is the bestselling book, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, makes its way to the big screen with lots of gore, a too stingy sprinkling of humor, and horribly overdone, unnecessary 3D effects. Grahame-Smith's book was a fun summer read, combining real historical events in the life of the 16th President of the United States with the notion that one of our most beloved Presidents was actually an axe-wielding vampire slayer. Forget what you thought you knew about Honest Abe, the lanky Prez who favored stovetop hats was Buffy before Buffy was cool. But cool isn't a word I'd use to describe Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. Disappointing, yes. Frustrating, definitely. But cool? No, that wouldn't describe this horror thriller.
Although Grahame-Smith adapted his own book, much of the rich history of the period as well as the well-crafted supporting characters he created are left on the cutting room floor in the film version of his novel. What's left is a stripped-down to the very basics story which may satisfy horror fans but will leave readers of the book, as well as audiences hoping for a smarter take on the vampire genre, disappointed. It may also not play well with action movie fans as director Timur Bekmambetov appears to have placed the desire to incorporate gimmicky 3D shots over simply delivering well-choreographed, exciting action sequences. We get served a lot of close-ups of weapons and the damage they inflict on their targets when concentrating on capturing the fight scene in its entirety would have been much more entertaining.

The Story:

It's very basic, really. Abraham Lincoln (played by Benjamin Walker) watched his mother die as the result of a vampire attack and immediately vowed revenge on the creature, powerful local businessman/vampire Jack Barts (Marton Csokas), who caused her death. However, years later a young adult Abe still isn't fully prepared to take down a bloodsucker, and his first attempt at murdering the vampire who killed his beloved mother nearly ends in his own death. Rescued by a mysterious stranger named Henry (Dominic Cooper), Lincoln now finally has a mentor who can school him in the fine art of vampire slaying. Henry teaches Abe how to best kill vampires after extracting a promise that he will follow Henry's orders and forget about revenge.

But revenge is never far from Abe's mind, and even after meeting the love of his life, studying law, and moving into politics - all while racking up an impressive dead vampire body count - Abe's lust for revenge is a fire constantly burning in his heart and soul that demands attention.

The Acting:

Benjamin Walker makes for a fine Abraham Lincoln. He looks the part (and looks a lot like a young Liam Neeson) and has a charming presence on screen, however he never quite sells the action hero/vampire-slaying side of this Lincoln. In supporting roles, Anthony Mackie as Lincoln's lifelong best friend and trusted companion, Jimmi Simpson as the Springfield shop owner who befriends Lincoln, Rufus Sewell as the most powerful vampire in America, and Mary Elizabeth Winstead as Mary Todd all provide solid support. But it's Dominic Cooper as Lincoln's vampire-slaying mentor, Henry, who gives the movie its energy. Unfortunately, he's absent from much of the film's 105 minute running time.

The Bottom Line:

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter should have provided a few hours of escapist fun. And there are a few genuinely funny moments as well as a couple of inventive fight sequences that seem to be there just to tease us into wondering how good ALVH could have been if Bekmambetov had been deprived of his 3D toys and told to focus instead on fight scenes the audience could follow without getting a headache. Bekmambetov obviously loved playing with the film's speed, but the results aren't what he was hoping to accomplish. Manic doesn't mix well with sluggish when fight scenes are forced to continuously rotate from one speed to the other. It's jarring and nearly nauseating, and isn't as clever as the director believes it to be. Honestly, even with a relatively short running time, Abraham Lincoln overstays its welcome.

Visually, Abraham Lincoln looks sloppy. The digital effects aren't smoothly integrated into the film, and scenes still look rough around the edges. My eyes ached after catching this in 3D, and I'd suggest that if you have to see this one in theaters, do not pay extra for the 3D version unless A) you're into pain, B) you love to toss away your money, and/or C) you need to hide the fact you're sleeping through what was supposed to be one of the summer of 2012's best action films.

Grade: C

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter was directed by Timur Bekmambetov and is rated R for violence throughout and brief sexuality.

Theatrical Release: June 22, 2012

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