Matt Pais, @mattpais
RedEye movie critic
June 27, 2013
*1/2 (out of four)
Saoirse Ronan already starred in the horrendous Stephenie Meyer adaptation “The Host.” The Irish actress now stars in the Ireland-set “Byzantium,” which at times feels like a knockoff of Meyer’s “Twilight.” I don’t know what’s up with the intelligent, talented Ronan (who also appeared in the recent, terrible “Violet & Daisy”), but such bad judgment has me worried here.
In “Byzantium,” Eleanor (Ronan) repeatedly writes about how she can’t share her story with anyone and that she has to throw away her pages of confession, but guess what? Everyone’s heard it before. You’re a vampire. Get over it.
Born before the discovery of Neptune and thus very good at piano after 200 years of practice, Eleanor follows perpetually cleavage-baring Clara (Gemma Arterton of this week’s “Unfinished Song”), her mother and fellow secret-keeping vampire. They can’t tell anyone about their identity and blah blah blah. Eleanor only kills and sucks the blood of those who want to die; Clara gleefully offs anyone she thinks deserves to die. Watch out, pimps!
That difference of protocol should be the focus of the repetitive “Byzantium.” Instead, director Neil Jordan (“The Brave One”) and writer Moira Buffini (adapting her play) spend much of the movie on what should be five minutes of backstory as they constantly jump back in time to address Clara’s past, of which Eleanor knows an unconvincingly large amount. It makes “Byzantium” seem like it’s Irish for “monotonous” as the film includes a pale rapist (Jonny Lee Miller) and an even paler, heroic vampire (Sam Riley) who factor into this family’s dark history. Eleanor also wants to get close to Frank (Caleb Landry Jones, always weird), but there’s the whole issue of her being a vampire and so forth.
Let’s end on a positive note: Clara working as a stripper and biting a creepy customer’s nose brought back pleasant memories of Norm MacDonald’s “Dirty Work,” and her dash away from the guy shows the value of only falling through a skylight if there’s a bouncy castle below. Keep that in mind, won’t you?
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