Dracula 2001 cast: Christopher Plummer, Jonny Lee Miller, Justine Waddell, Jennifer Esposito, and Gerard Butler director: Patrick Lussier 85 minutes (15) 2001 widescreen ratio 2.35:1 Dimension DVD Region 2 retail RATING: 7/10 reviewed by Tony Lee

Despite the mauling it got from some critics, I found this updated hodgepodge of vampire chills and fantasy action quite refreshing in a sort of post-Buffy way. It begins as a crime caper movie, with the theft of Count Dracula’s sealed coffin from a secret bank vault in London. The big revelation here is that van Helsing (Christopher Plummer) has made himself all but immortal using blood – cleverly filtered through leeches – from the body of the defeated and imprisoned, but still threateningly undead, vampire king. Admittedly, Jonny Lee Miller is wooden as the vampire slayer’s adopted son, Simon, but Jennifer Esposito is at least more enthusiastic in her role as treacherous secretary Solina, doomed to become one of the three vampire brides.
The second part of the story is set in New Orleans where, after a plane crash, Dracula stalks Mary and bites his brides-to-be (including Jeri Ryan, of Star Trek Voyager fame). Supposed hero, Simon, fails to be of much help to anyone, really, even once he’s recovered from the shock of finding out Dracula exists in 21st century. So it’s down to Mary (yes, she’s van Helsing’s estranged daughter) to figure out the Count’s secret past (he was Judas Iscariot, which explains why crucifixes and silver are such a nuisance to his unholy flesh), and make sure the fanged fiend is hanged for good (from a huge neon cross!) – just in time for the sunrise finale.
One of main critical points against this updating of the classic story is the in-your-face ‘product placement’ of filming heroine Mary (Justine Waddell) at work in a Virgin store. However, it turns out that filmmakers Patrick Lussier, and Joel Soisson (who co-wrote the script), have said this production got no money at all from the aforementioned chain-store for such blatant promotion, so what we are left with is just a briefly amusing sequence in which Mary wears her ‘virgin’ label T-shirt, and the hungry Dracula (Gerard Butler, wholly miscast) looks for fresh victims in a shop that appears to employ only young girls…
Overall, this could and should have been much better, as there are more than enough ideas here to add something new and revitalising to familiar, traditional, Dracula movie lore. Sadly, although it’s watchable and generally entertaining, much of this film’s potential is lost due to some mediocre scripting, a thoroughly hopeless leading man, and the unfortunate choice of hammy Butler as villain.
DVD extras include: a behind-the-scenes featurette, extended scenes, deleted scenes, screen tests, storyboards, original trailer, and a commentary by director and his co-writer.