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New Release Review (DVD/VOD) - BLOODRUNNERS

In prohibition era America, a vampiric mobster runs not booze, but blood.






Review by Benjamin Poole

Directed by: Dan Lantz

Starring: Ice-T, Michael McFadden, Chris James Boylan, Airen DeLaMater, Peter Patrikios, Julie Ek


‘I'm a vamp killer, better you than me/ Vamp killer, eff vamp brutality!’ So sang (I think) star of Bloodrunners Ice T during the early '90s, an era when rap music was still exciting and dangerous and countercultural. And how times change! Nowadays, hiphop-biopic Straight Outta Compton is a bona-fide mainstream hit, while Drake tops the charts as he’s crying in the strip club. And old Tracy Marrow (aka Ice T), formerly chief vampire hunter of the West Side, is now a bloodsucker himself, fronting a jazz bar in 1930s America and playing trumpet in-between drawling his club’s catchphrase; ‘Ain’t no booze here, just good clean fun’. But there is booze in Chesterfield’s (T’s) club, and it’s hard to argue that it’s just good clean fun in there either, with the speakeasy not only being host to illegitimate boozing, but sordid and secret vampire activity, too.


Chesterfield and his cohorts are centuries old bloodsuckers, working 5 to 9 in order to build their nightclub empire so they can move on up to the bigger cities, where their gory actions have less chance of being noticed. Some things never change though, as Ice T’s character still winds up the cops, most notably the hard boiled and embittered Malone (Michael McFadden). The two parties have an uneasy agreement: the speakeasies can run, as long as the bent coppers get some, charging the bootleggers a ‘luxury tax’ as they look the other way (usually towards the cheerful brothel that instigates Bloodrunners’ romantic sub-plot - "pussy and whisky’s all we got": line of the year).


The problems begin when Chesterfield’s scofflaws are doing a booze run one night and the pigs stop ‘em for nothing. Of course, Chesterfield’s lads are actually transporting blood and not moonshine: panic ensues, and a few dead cops later, Malone is all up in Chesterfield’s grill. Further complications ensue when one of Chesterfield’s greener employees, Willie (Chris Boylan), falls for the virginal Anna (Airen DeLaMater), a sweet natured girl who was born and raised at the local cathouse that both vampire and cop alike frequent, prompting the film’s occasional soft-porn shenanigans. No one can say that there isn’t a lot going on in Bloodrunners.


It’s impossible not to enjoy Dan Lantz’s fun vamps n’ civic violations caper. Every last red cent of the budget has seemingly gone towards recreating the prohibition era in loving and luxurious detail: there is even a conceit of filming the car scenes against (oh yes) rolling footage, old school style. You can’t help but smile, although the precision of Bloodrunners’ nostalgia threatens to engulf the film. The opening - with Ice playing the trumpet in his club, leading into a gorgeous rendition of a Cole Porter style number courtesy of club singer Julie Ek - sets the film up, but is also indicative of its narrative problems; at times, the focus on visual pleasures and nostalgia leaves pacing and plausibility in the dark. Who do we root for? The vampires, the cops; or our two star crossed lovers, the shoe shine boy and the cathouse kid, who really aren’t all that intriguing (and, regarding the latter, whose good girl presence proposes an uncomfortable moral line: she’s not a hooker, and so is more worthy of our sympathy, the film seems to suggest)?

Nonetheless, like a good evening out in a speakeasy, Bloodrunners provides the illicit and escapist entertainment it promises. Ice T’s intense and creamy charisma has always been a joy to watch, and his performance here is just one of the many tasty tipples that the Bloodrunners bar has to offer. Bottoms up, indeed.

Bloodrunners is available on Blu-ray/DVD and Digital HD March 7th.





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