Daybreakers Squanders Ethan Hawke and Willem Dafoe
No fashion-conscious multiplex movie should face opening day without some grave issue of our day propped in its buttonhole. Last year's sci-fi blockbusters took on apartheid (District 9) and the Indian Wars (Avatar) not a moment too soon; Daybreakers dials up resource scarcity, class conflict, the Military-Industrial Complex, and big pharma. (Actual line: "It was never about a cure. It's about repeat business.") The rationed near-future of Daybreakers recalls Soylent Green—except everyone knows they're eating people, because almost everyone's a vampire in 2019. Where the trailer ploddingly spelled out the horror-dystopia setup ("Imagine a world . . ."), Daybreakers opens on a cool, obliquely shot, dialogue-free prologue that shows life after the vampire plague—and how frictionless-slick co-directors Michael and Peter Spierig are. Unrest grows as drinkable blood from living humans, now factory-farmed, runs out. Ethan Hawke plays a hesitant bloodsipper, a hematologist looking for a synthetic substitute, who falls in with a band of free-range mortals who're working on a cure while organic farming. There are pleasures here: The "Subsiders," degenerate, starving, cannibal Nosferatu, are effectively awful; Sam Neill is hambone-wicked as a vulpine CEO. But wearisome "Ain't it cool?" video-game splatter-violence is all that's memorable of the action, while a (mixed) metaphorical subtext of conservationism can't save a text that squanders its actors.
Get the Film & TV Newsletter
Stay up to date on the best new movies with our critics' latest reviews, interviews and trailers for the films coming to a theater near you each week.
More Film News
- Scott Adkins Plays a Badass Actually Named ‘Colt McReady’ In the Effective ‘Close Range’
- Meet the Pole Who Tried to Warn the World About the Holocaust in ‘Karski & the Lords...
- Jane Fonda Faced Down the Seventies and a Killer in Pakula’s Masterful ‘Klute’
- He’ll Get Your Head Shaking: Surveying the Start of Chung Mong-hong’s (Likely) Great...