After falling in love with the New Orleans traffic cop, Rebecca Quincy (Awkafina), who called him a hero for saving lives, Robert (Nicolas Hoult) decides it is time to put an end to his servitude to his boss, Count Dracula (Nicolas Cage). But the ancient vampire won’t be so easily convinced to let go of “Renfield.”
Laura's Review: C+
Writer Ryan Ridley and director Chris McKay (“The Lego Batman Movie) squander their fabulous dual Nicolas leads with a mediocre vampire/crime thriller crossover that cannot hold a candle to TV’s ‘What We Do in the Shadows.’ While Hoult’s Renfield alternates between hapless group therapy member and Wuxia-style wire work action hero, Cage gives us a historical homage to all those who’ve held the role before him, from Lon Chaney in the silent (and lost) “London After Midnight” through Christopher Lee, master and familiar shown meeting in a fabulous flashback that inserts them into Tod Browning’s 1931 “Dracula.” Cage was so committed he had his teeth shaved down to accommodate Christien Tinsely’s set of 3D-printed pointy choppers, a unique take on the usual fangs which probably precluded Cage nodding to either version of “Nosferatu” with their equally unique rat incisors.
Robert Montague Renfield is growing tired of what he tells us has been a cyclical process, Dracula building his strength up until he engages in a blood lust frenzy that bring the ‘good guys’ to vanquish him so that Renfield must build up his strength all over again (the stakes, as it were, are lowered when Dracula is seemingly invincible, as he is portrayed here). And so when the Livespring Church’s destructive relationship support group leader Mark (Brandon Scott Jones, TV’s ‘Ghosts’) asks the young man just what would happen if he stopped focusing on his boss’s needs, Renfield realizes ‘He won’t grow to full power!’
Told to go fetch him some nuns or a busload of cheerleaders by the recomposing Count, Renfield heads to New Orleans’ Mulates Cajun restaurant, where he’s seated next to a table of four nuns as a busload of cheerleaders pass by. But then the local mob boss’s son Teddy Lobo (Ben Schwartz) and his goons, all wearing wolf masks, enter shooting up the place. Renfield watches in awe as Rebecca stands up to them, demanding Teddy shoot her as he’s threatened. Grabbing a nearby bug and swallowing it (this is how Renfield gets his Dracula-gifted powers), Renfield makes quick work Teddy’s gang. ‘Did you just cut off a guy’s arms with a decorative serving platter?’ asks an awestruck Rebecca. She, we will learn, has been trying to take down the Lobo mob who killed her police officer father for years, but Mob boss Ella (Shohreh Aghdashloo) appears to have the entire New Orleans PD in her pocket (there is a lot of what we may assume is Trump inspired commentary on ‘getting away with everything’ and accountability).
All of Cage’s lovingly crafted Lord of Darkness shtick and Hoult’s likable limb rending, decapitating action mania end up in service to a lame plot which finds Teddy becoming Dracula’s familiar in the Count’s plot for ‘World Domination’ and the Lobos kidnapping Rebecca’s F.B.I. agent sister for a showdown exposing what we already know about Captain Browning (James Moses Browning) and his department. “Renfield” has some jokes that land well (Renfield’s new welcome mat among its best) and some fine support in Schwartz and Renfield’s support group, but this highly anticipated horror comedy is mostly bloodless.
Universal releases "Renfield" in theaters on 4/14/23.