It’s up to a group of Londoners in the late 19th century to stop vampire Dracula (Gary Oldman) from killing everyone around him and creating more like him. To do so, lawyer Jonathan Harker (Keanu Reeves), Dr. Jack Seward (Richard E. Grant), Lord Arthur Holmwood (Cary Elwes), and American Quincy P. Morris (Billy Campbell) must enlist the help of eccentrict vampire hunter, Dr. Abraham Van Helsing (Anthony Hopkins). But will they stop Dracula in time to save the life and soul of Jonathan’s fiancee Mina (Winona Ryder)?
Keanu Reeves shouldn’t be in this movie. He sticks out like a sore thumb. Strike that. He sticks out like a sore thumb that has gotten an infection and grown to the size of the Empire State Building. He’s a very obvious 20th century square peg trying to fit in a 19th century circle. His accent is atrociously laughable. Even if it wasn’t and even if he looked more at home in the period setting, his acting just isn’t up to snuff. I’ll admit he’s trying, but it just doesn’t work. Jonathan Harker he is not.
It’s too bad. The rest of the cast, with the possible exception of Winona Ryder’s boring performance, is damn fine. Anthony Hopkins, Richard E. Grant, Cary Elwes, and the wonderful Gary Oldman (who’s Dracula is an evil mother-you-know-what, just as he should be) are fabulous. Stoker’s creation was a remorseless monster who caused death and destruction wherever he went. Oldman captures that man/vampire better than anyone.
That’s good. Director Francis Ford Coppola has said he prides himself on putting the author’s name above the title and making it their movie more than his. Coppola’s interpretation is certainly faithful to the famous novel in many regards. I love it for that because many Dracula films aren’t. Sadly, The Godfather director adds a needless romance subplot between Dracula and Mina that involves them having shared a love in past life. None of this is in the novel. Which is good because it’s incredibly dull and stop’s the film dead every time. If I was the type of person to fast forward through the bad parts of a movie, I would’ve done so whenever these two shared a scene.
It’s especially grates me since it’s trying to make you sympathize with Dracula at the same time it’s showing you the great extent of his evil. Coppola also fails to instill any momentum, energy, or much suspense into the film. The Gothic horror is there and some of the atmosphere is present, but not to the same degree as the novel. The book is so intriguing from its very first page. It builds on itself until the epic climax, at which point the tension and stakes are so high I barely exhaled until I finished reading. Dracula the movie, for all its similarities with the novel, never reaches this level of excellence. It’s more weird and unnecessarily erotic than good.
It may still be worth a look for its performances and some scary moments, but don’t expect the brilliance of the novel. Oh, and cover your ears whenever Reeves is speaking. You’ll thank me later.