The Bleeding has a plot that could have been birthed from the womb of a dozen Junior High sleepovers. Shawn Black is a beefcake vampire slayer, a blank-eyed muscle-man who oozes an indifference that‘s almost comical. Looking for the vampire that murdered his parents, Black skips down a veritable yellow brick road of B-movie subplots before reaching his goal. He hooks up with a few oddball characters, collects some trinkets and weapons, and then predictably faces down the main vampire (Vinnie Jones) in the movie’s final moments. With predictable results. Add in Black’s unintentionally goofy voiceover narration, and it’s easy to imagine the screenplay as something hand-written in a sloppy cursive and stored in a Trapper Keeper adorned with Transformers stickers.
“This is good and evil shit,” intones Black’s bored-as-fuck sounding voiceover, “straight out of the bible.” With the help of some clumsy flashbacks, Black fills everybody in on the shit they may have missed. There was a war in heaven, and the good angels kicked the bad angels out. Black’s brother was killed while serving in Afghanistan, but the body was never found, and it really bugs Black. Like, alot. Black collected cars with his Italian father, but his Irish mother didn’t approve. Deeming the audience sufficiently bored after his ass-spray of exposition, Black settles down for a drink. (“I didn’t know which to do first,” the voiceover mumbles, “get revenge…or get drunk––I needed to do both.” Okay, then.) Armand Assante and William McNamara are the nagging police detectives who show up to break up his drunken pity party, but they’re onscreen so briefly that if you get up for a beer, you’ll totally miss ‘em.
Black’s only real lead in his vampire hunt is the name and address of a guy named Tagg, so he loads up on guns and shit and cruises on over. (“I always believe if you need something done, you just gotta take care of it yourself,” sez the disinterested voiceover. “Otherwise, it always turns out the same––too many chiefs, not enough Indians.” Whatever that means.) Black arrives to discover that Tagg is actually jailed rapper DMX, and for some reason he’s getting the living shit tortured out of his hand. Once he’s been duly rescued, DMX is compelled to regale the audience with even MORE exposition, a bunch of nonsense about a vampire king being born once every one or two hundred years. Then DMX hooks Black up with some silver bullets and sends him on his way.
Next stop, Father Roy. (Or rather: “Next stop…Father Roy. Talk about putting your parishioners to sleep. Seems like this guy’s entire congregation…is resting in peace.”) The role of Father Roy is phoned in by Michael Madsen, who is once again willing to accept a paycheck for simply remaining conscious while in frame. He introduces Black to a bulletproof hearse and a crypt full of guns. Yeah, I know, it seems like The Bleeding is going to start getting exciting at any given moment, even as it drags its plot through puddles of random back story on the way to it‘s lackluster showdown. Sure, there are car chases and explosions, titties and mild gore, all thrown together into one sloppy package. But it’s like a drunken studio exec listened to the pitch of a nerdy 7th grader and decided to throw $4 million at it.
And although the amateurish script is the root of the problem, some blame should be shouldered by Michael Matthias, the newcomer who plays Shawn Black. Supposedly a “discovery” on the part of producer Michael Tadross Jr., he’s an action hero who’s lacking both dexterity and charisma, ultimately coming across like an awkward cross between Vin Diesel and a russet potato. As the lead role in an over-budgeted action flick packed with scenery-chewing character actors, he visibly flounders at every step. An action picture can succeed despite a shitty script, but without a strong central hero, it will always die a slow death.
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