Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Dylan Dog: Dead of Night (2011)

     I read – on some internet board discussing the disappointments with a forgotten film – that Dylan Dog: Dead of Night (2011) was one of the two worst movies of the year.  Now that's a pretty small list, and one I'd suppose most people wouldn't generate something so specific unless they were strongly convinced that they were in the right.  I remembered seeing the ads for the film and thinking something along the lines of, why would I spend money to see this?, and promptly did not go out and see it.  I probably would not have given the film any thought afterwards save for somebody proclaiming it to be an absolute disaster on a scale that would make Jonah Hex (2010) look good.
     In truth, Dylan Dog: Dead of Night isn't a bad movie.  It isn't all that good, either; it just sort of is.  Mind you, I offer my criticisms of the film and story with full ignorance of the source material for it.  The DVD case claims that Dylan Dog is one the most popular comic books in the world (a quick check on shows that it is the most popular title in Italy), but I had never heard anything about it before the movie.  It is possible, though unlikely, that strict adherence to the style and tone of Tiziano Sclavi's creation led to the weaknesses that were not overcome.
     Director Kevin Munroe fancies his version of Dylan Dog as a film noir thriller, but it lacks in the elements for this to e successful.  First, there isn't much to thrill the audience.  Dylan (Brandon Routh) is about as inconsistent a character as I have seen in recent years.  Routh may give the requisite deadpan readings of the expository voice overs, but he withholds the character's emotions on screen as well, leaving the leading man with no soul.  Instead of the classic sexual tension and clear dileneation between strong, tough men and crafty, cunning, alluring women, Dylan Dog offers up an almost wholly sexless relationship – one certainly devoid of any sexual tension – between the P.I. and the not-quite femme fatale. 
     So much time is given over to explaining the world of the undead that Dylan used to police – and werewolves are somehow casually lumped in with vampires and zombies as the un-living – that there is little time to appreciate the wholly ridiculous manner by which Dylan goes about conducting his investigation.  On this level, it aspires to be an imitation of John Huston's version of The Maltese Falcon (1941).  However, where Huston's film was full of (often vicious) humor, the forced jokes in Dylan Dog seem to fall rather flat.  Because the only character who seems to have any emotional investment in anything happening on-screen is the victim of all of the comedic calamities Munroe offers up, there is no one with whom to effectively banter or sympathize with the plights.
     The movie proceeds at a slow, stable pace.  None of the action scenes carry any sense of malice or dread.  While none of the actors bring a great deal of life to the characters, none seem to be lost or over-matched by the material.  Munroe apparently wanted a more muted tone, a stark contrast to more modern genre films and an attempt to honor the old, classic mysteries of the 1940s and '50s.  The problem is that he captures none of the tension and little of the humor those movies had.
     I definitely would not rate Dylan Dog: Dead of Night as a good movie, but I could see how someone could enjoy it.  There are some elements that are just too underserved for me that may strike the right tone for others.  It certainly is not the worst movie I have seen in the last three years, and probably not the worst one I have seen since starting this blog.  At least it looks decent and is edited competently, which is usually enough to keep a film off a worst of list.

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