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  • 4 out of 5 stars
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Time Out says

4 out of 5 stars

Nicolas Cage sinks his teeth into a juicy role in one of his most OTT screen appearances

How Nicolas Cagey do you like your Nicolas Cage? If the answer is absolute tongue-lolling, gurning, rollercoaster-cadence, hootin’-n-hollerin’ Nicolas Cage at all times please, then this is the film for you. His performance as Count Dracula is one of his greats, prancing – soaring – over the top at all times. Yet, while it’s all excess, it’s also one of his most focused turns. Every doolally choice is in service of the story. And that is what is great about Chris McKay’s (The Lego Batman Movie) stupid-but-very-smart movie: it is constantly ridiculous, but it always knows why it’s being ridiculous.

It has the most wonderfully daft concept. The ‘Renfield’ of the title is Robert Montague Renfield (Nicholas Hoult). Once a lawyer, he made a foolish bargain with Dracula that saw him doomed to spend eternity as his familiar, bringing the vampire victims to suck dry and laboriously resurrecting him every time he’s burned, staked or buried. In return he gets to live forever and experience superpowers, but only when he eats insects. It is, many decades have taught him, not the best deal. Now he is stuck in New Orleans, with a mostly-rotted Dracula, who doesn’t have the strength to find his own victims. Renfield could just leave him but… he can’t. They are locked in a codependent relationship: Renfield is too scared to leave his boss when he’s forgotten life without him, and Dracula is literally dependent on Renfield for survival but too arrogant to admit it. 

That presents a juicy vein of comedy, with Renfield, who seeks refuge in a self-help group for people stuck in toxic relationships, trying to apply lessons of modern-day therapy to life with an undead ancient monster. Around it is a brisk plot about Renfield semi-accidentally getting into a war with a powerful criminal (Ben Schwartz) and a terribly awkward romance with a cop (Awkwafina). This could all become messy, but Ryan Ridley and Robert Kirkman’s script knows where it’s going. It’s tightly structured and rarely self-indulgent. Every joke has a punchline, every scene a point, every character a believable reason to exist – even when that reason is ‘to devour humans’. There is a solid core around which the chaos can spin.

It’s absolutely, ceaselessly ridiculous – and always ridiculously good fun

And how it spins. Through fight scenes in which arms are ripped off, torsos divorced from legs and people kicked so hard in the stomach they simultaneously vomit and crap out their innards. Through car chases and probably the most absurd attempt at vampire vanquishing ever committed to screen. Through many instances of Cage sinking his little mole-rat teeth into the scenery. It is absolutely, ceaselessly ridiculous. And always ridiculously good fun.

In cinemas worldwide Apr 14.

Olly Richards
Written by
Olly Richards

Cast and crew

  • Director:Chris McKay
  • Screenwriter:Ryan Ridley
  • Cast:
    • Ben Schwartz
    • Nicolas Cage
    • Nicholas Hoult
    • Awkwafina
    • Shohreh Aghdashloo
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