Our titular hero of the story, Robert Montague Renfield (Nicholas Hoult) has been in servitude to the villainous Dracula (Nicolas Cage) for centuries and must find the courage to break free. But does his film give his story justice, and will audiences feel riveted and entertained enough to find inspiration in it? Renfield is directed by Chris McKay, written by Ryan Ridley with a story by Robert Kirkman, and stars Nicolas Cage, Nicholas Hoult, Awkwafina, Ben Schwartz, Adrian Martinez, and Shohreh Aghdashloo. Skybound Entertainment and Giant WildCat are the producing companies, while Universal Pictures is the distributor.
Going into Renfield, I anticipated a witty and hilarious time that should be promised with the very notion of Nicolas Cage, one of his generation’s most wonderfully eccentric actors, playing Count Dracula himself. But there’s barely enough of Dracula to savor through the film. There’s not enough to laugh at or enjoy with Nic Cage Dracula, and he feels like a side piece in a film that promised us more.
Of course, while Dracula is a key part of the story, it’s not his story that should be centered but that of his servant Renfield. And Nicholas Hoult is entertaining to watch for sure, imbibing his character with sympathy, sadness, and wit. But without the consistency of Dracula to bounce off of through the film, with their scenes only being a handful of deeply uncomfortable and abusive interactions, there’s not much to find humor in their interactions. Clearly, that wasn’t the point, but despite what the field was going for in terms of imbibing sympathy for Renfield, it feels like something is missing.
And therein lies the confusion of Renfield. It’s screenplay by Ridley doesn’t know went to land its laughs or when to draw out its tears. When it does try to make jokes they mostly land with a sad thud. It takes itself and its characters far more seriously than any of them have any right to be, and forgets what type of movie its meant to be. Too much of their dialogue is way too much on the nose, not allowing any room for the eccentricities of the characters to flourish.
In not dedicating itself to the bombastic nature of its premise, while also not allowing any room for subtlety, the film loses so much potential to be both riveting and funny, barely fulfilling either. Are we supposed to laugh? Cry? Cringe? Unfortunately, Renfield gravitates us towards the last of these reactions, and it suffers tremendously for it.
Awkwafina gives it her all as the cop and love interest Rebecca, given some of the best depth of character (yay copaganda!), and along with Cage, she actually knows what kind of movie she’s in. Ben Schwartz, as well, amps up his comedic performance to deliver some entertainment. But again, they can only elevate the shoddy dialogue of Renfield so far, and the sheer weight of its tedium causes their contributions to collapse. Screen icon Shohreh Aghdashloo shines when she can, but she is, unfortunately, unable to elevate the material either. At the very least, she sounds good in her trademark sultry voice, per usual, no matter the quality of the material she is given.
Despite the lack of good dialogue or story pacing, Renfield excels in its action scenes. McKay and his stunt team have a good eye for choreography and the depiction of violence. The gore is explosive and lands more laughs than any of the terribly written jokes, and is some of the most creative you’ll see in any comedy horror film. If only the rest of the movie could have dedicated this much effort to its other aspects.
Renfield is, regrettably, a mediocre bore of a movie. While there are a few good performances among the cast, especially from Nicolas Cage’s Dracula, and some good action and violence, the shoddily written script sinks it into a boring time at the theaters. It ultimately fails to live up to its promise to be hilariously riveting and makes itself a chore to watch as you desperately cling for entertainment. With a cast this great and a concept this intriguing, the execution comes out to be a colossal disappointment.
Renfield is out April 14th in theaters nationwide.
Renfield is regrettably a mediocre bore of a movie. While there are a few good performance among the cast, especially from Nicolas Cage’s Dracula, and some good action and violence, the shoddily written script sinks it into a boring time at the theaters. It ultimately fails to live up to its promise to be hilariously riveting, and makes itself a chore to watch as you desperately cling for entertainment. With a cast this great and a concept this intriguing, the execution comes out to be a colossal disappointment.