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Jacqueline Monahan's Movie Reviews

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter | Benjamin Walker, Dominic Cooper, Mary Elizabeth Winstead | Review

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  4_Chicks_Small Jacqueline Monahan

Jacqueline  Monahan

Las Vegas Round The Clock
Jacqueline Monahan is an educator for the GEAR UP program at UNLV.
She is also an entertainment reporter for
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Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter | Benjamin Walker, Dominic Cooper, Mary Elizabeth Winstead | Review

The undead can live forever so it makes sense that they’d already be hanging around during the 19th century, coinciding with the life of the 16th U.S. president.  I don’t mean hanging like bats, though they are vampires.  They have the fangs and the bloodlust, but dress in suitably period costuming.

Then there’s honest Abe Lincoln, whose story we thought we knew.  As it turns out, an entire portion of the man’s life was devoted to the heroic mission of vampire eradication using silver bullets and a special silver-tipped axe.  Decapitation makes the undead stay dead.

Director Timur Bekmambetov’s (Wanted) creative historical revisionism is a gleeful period piece with teeth (can’t help it) that makes more sense than it should and pulls no punches.  Early on, Lincoln is recruited to train as a vampire killer (one chomped on his mom) and he anachronistically declares, “I’m in.”

After witnessing his mother’s murder by a vampire, Abe Lincoln (Benjamin Walker) vows revenge upon the blood sucker Jack Barts (Marton Csokas).  He also carries on in historical tradition by attending law school.  His path crosses with the eccentric Henry Sturgess (Dominic Cooper) who sets him upon the bigger mission of ridding the nation of the vicious vermin.

After a training period and several successful assignments, Lincoln meets and weds Mary Todd, becomes a lawyer and presidential candidate, and battles beings with sharp incisors and a thirst for the contents of human veins.

Seems the Battle between North and South was really one between Neck and Mouth.  Lincoln had to engage in regular hand-to-hand battle as leader of the vampire-free world.

Stylized ultra-violence and slow motion show-downs ensue, with bloody assaults interspersed with impressive backflips.  The visuals portray scenes of frenetic altercation as well choreographed ballet steps, made moist by bloodletting and hypnotically dynamic by a smooth, nearly seamless portrayal of destruction.

Slight drawbacks to all of the painterly action come from silly banter between Lincoln and Mary Todd (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) and a pugilistic footrace across a stampeding horse herd. A climactic train battle goes on for an excessive amount of time, and a female vampire seems to be added as an afterthought.

Lincoln’s own death (not shown) seems anticlimactic after all this.
The rest is historic fact and revisionist folklore braided and married in ways that generate a logic that would seem incomprehensible at first.  Yet, somehow, it all works, and that is a testament to Bekmambetov’s skill, screenwriter Seth Grahame-Smith’s (he also wrote the novel) clever weave of fact and fantasy, and the unmistakable presence of Tim Burton as producer, bound to leave a macabre fingerprint somewhere on the project.

Benjamin Walker is a straight man eschewing camp and impersonation for man-on-a-mission determination.  Dominic Cooper portrays the mysterious Henry with world-weary, jaded panache.  Mary Elizabeth Winstead’s Mary Todd is there solely, it seems, to remind us that Lincoln had a wife and sought out the normalcy of life as a husband and father.

The film simply augment’s Lincoln’s integrity, injecting a largely invisible enemy into the fray, and making the man more of an extrovert than he probably was.  Remembering the “what if?” aspect will allow you to sit back and appreciate the wild premise.

One final point:
After all this, a bullet in a theater?  How anticlimactic an end for the man who saved our necks.  Perhaps that is meant to be the most biting social commentary of all.

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