RENFIELD review by Mark Walters – Nicolas Cage (as Dracula) is making Nicholas Hoult’s life hell

RENFIELD review by Mark Walters – Nicolas Cage (as Dracula) is making Nicholas Hoult’s life hell

Nicolas Cage is Dracula… that’s the pitch, and it’s kind of perfect. It’s easy to see why RENFIELD was greenlit as a film, even if Cage is a secondary character in it. The lead character is Dracula’s loyal but put upon servant, Renfield, played by Nicholas Hoult. The film opens with some flashbacks to how Renfield met and began working with Dracula, and it’s shown in black and white grainy film that looks just like the classic Bela Lugosi DRACULA movie. It’s so well done, I actually wish we were given even more of it, but it’s used sparingly so as to get us into the present day. After nearly a century of bringing bodies to Dracula so he can feast, Renfield is starting to feel like he’s being emotionally abused. So what does one do in that moment? He begins attending a support group for people feeling used by their significant others or superiors.

The support group serves two purposes, as it gives Renfield an idea of how to deal with his problems, but in reality he’s using these people to target bodies for food, as he feels like targeting “bad” people is less offensive in the grand scheme of things. But this backfires on him, when one of the bad guys he goes to kill is attacked by drug dealers, leading to a chaotic and violent mess. And Dracula isn’t pleased with these “bad guy” bodies, as most are filled drugged up and tainted blood. He demands Renfield bring him more pure specimens, like nuns or cheerleaders. Soon, Renfield is caught in the middle or a war involving police, a crime family, and eventually Dracula himself. Along the way he meets and becomes friends with Rebecca (Awkwafina), a cop trying to follow in her deceased father’s footsteps and do good in a corrupt city.

The plot points here may not be anything revolutionary, but the movie knows how to keep the audience engaged with hilarious, violent, and sometimes shocking moments that really get an audience going. And everyone in it is clearly having a blast with the material, Directed by Chris McKay (THE TOMORROW WAR), the pacing of the film is short and sweet, just a hair over 90 minutes with credits, and it moves and never feels bogged down with talky or overly-indulgent moments. It’s also some of the best comedic acting from Nicolas Cage in a long time – this is classic manic Cage, and a reminder of just how wild and crazy he can be. Nicolas Hoult is a likable lead, and really brings a softness and humanity to Renfield, while handling himself perfectly in the gruesome action scenes. Awkwafina is fun and an inspired choice for the well-meaning cop Rebecca, who is one of the few decent characters in the cast, and she has great chemistry with Hoult, even handling herself quite well in the action sequences. Ben Schwartz is really enjoying himself here playing a drugged out tattooed-up son of a crime matriarch, played by the great Shohreh Aghdashloo. It’s a serious break from the norm for both performers, and they do a masterful job with it.

The film is frequently hyper-violent, but smartly used CGI blood, and it’s shown in a slightly bright coloration so as to keep things from feeling too disturbing. You could call it comedic violence, but while it’s often funny it’s very much over the top and prevents the movie from being off-putting to those with sensitive stomachs. I really enjoyed RENFIELD, and I imagine I’ll revisit it at some point if for no other reason to have a good time watching these characters again, especially Cage. It actually reminded me of some of the horror comedies from the 1980s and 90s, like AMERICAN WEREWOLD IN LONDON, FRIGHT NIGHT, or DEAD ALIVE. It really feels like a movie that is not trying to appease anyone, it’s just there for you to have fun with, and if you’re in the right mindset you absolutely will.

RENFIELD opens April 14, 2023

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About the Author

Born and raised in Dallas, Mark has been a movie critic since 1994, with reviews featured in print, radio and National TV. In 2001 he started the Entertainment section of the Herorealm website, where he contributed film reviews and celebrity interviews until 2004. After three years of service there, he started, which has become one of the Dallas film community's leading information websites. Bigfanboy hosts several movie screenings in the Texas area, and works closely with film and TV studios and promotional partners to host exciting events and contests. The site also features a variety of rare celebrity and filmmaker interviews, and regularly covers the film festival circuit as well. In addition to Hollywood reporting, Mark has worked for many years as an advertising and sci-fi/comic book artist. Clients have included Lucasfilm Ltd., Topps Trading Cards, The Dallas Mavericks and The Dallas Stars. From 2002 until 2015 he managed the Dallas Comic Con, Sci-Fi Expo and Fan Days events in the DFW area. He currently catalogs rare comic books and movie memorabilia for Heritage Auctions, and runs the Dallas Comic Show conventions, but remains an avid moviegoer and cinema buff.