Movie Reviews

Movie Review: RENFIELD Starring Nicholas Hoult, Nicolas Cage, Awkwafina

Posted: April 14, 2023 at 6:00 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

If you grew up in the ’90s, surely you saw at least one action film starring Nicolas Cage. After receiving an Oscar for best actor in Leaving Las Vegas, Cage became one of Hollywood’s leading men, starring in a string of hits such as The Rock, Con Air, Gone in 60 Seconds, and one of my personal favorites – Face/Off. He had some moderate success in the 2000s, with another personal favorite, the National Treasure franchise (still waiting on 3, Jerry Bruckheimer; what’s on page 47??), but he fell off pretty sharply for a bit after two major bombs, The Wicker Man and Ghost Rider.

Recently, though, he’s had a bit of a resurgence, giving fantastic performances in Mandy, Pig, and The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent, which I thoroughly enjoyed. He’s well aware that he’s the subject of memes (which he leaned heavily into for Massive Talent), and at this point, he’s probably as popular as he’s ever been. Still, rather than slow down and enjoy the twilight of his career, he’s continued to take on new challenges, leading us to the release of Renfield.

Technically, Nicholas Hoult is intended to be the star as the eponymous R.M. Renfield, but it’s established pretty quickly that Cage steals the scene every time he appears as Count Dracula. Rather than try to be serious, Cage fully embraces the absurd, donning an… accent (I’d be lying if I said I could place it) and fake teeth that invariably alter his speech. At one point in the movie, he uses the Cage rage meme from Vampire’s Kiss, which I found hilarious. Despite the copious amounts of blood and the positive message the movie sends, it’s the embrace of the silliness that saves the movie from being too bad.

Still, Hoult does a fine job as the protagonist Renfield, who originally sought out Dracula to try and earn more money for his long-dead wife and daughter. Instead, Dracula made him into his servant/errand boy, forcing him to find new victims and clean up after his mess. Dracula does give him a hint of power, though, as Renfield displays incredible combat abilities, but he can only demonstrate them after he’s eaten bugs (no blood for good ol’ Renny). I’ve been a fan of Hoult’s ever since I first saw him in Warm Bodies, and he seems to form a genuine bond with Awkwafina, who plays a police officer who gets inadvertently pulled into the plot while trying to bring down the local crime family, led by Tedward (Ben Schwartz) and his mother Bellafrancesca (Shohreh Aghdashloo).

It’s been described as a comedy-horror, but admittedly there really isn’t a whole lot of horror. There aren’t any jump-terror scenes, nor is there a lot of tension except for maybe a couple of scenes at the end. Director Chris McKay seemingly abandoned the concept of making it a suspenseful film for the sake of adding levity and a surprisingly heartfelt message about self-reliance; at times during the movie, Renfield attends a support group at a local church for people who are involved in relationships with narcissists, and he uses this as motivation to better his own life and finally stand up to Dracula. Thankfully, enough humor is thrown in to keep these moments from being too ham-fisted preachy.

The movie also transitions often between a comedy and frenetic action movie with a lot of slo-mo involved. The fight scenes are fun to watch, and they’re so absurdly over-the-top violent I found myself laughing at quite a few of the scenes, in a good way. Having said that, I don’t think it’s going to win any awards for its visuals, as it’s heavily reliant on CGI which at times just seems slightly off.

Still, it’s entertaining and it’s worth a few laughs. It’s also a pretty short movie, clocking in at just over 90 minutes, so the pace moves pretty quickly and the film avoids too much exposition. It’s not a summer blockbuster, but it’s a nice appetizer for what’s yet to come.

Renfield gets a B-