I watched "Dylan Dog: Dead of Night" with my 13-year-old son, who, seconds after it ended, asked, "What would you give it?"
Normally it's me asking him, so I was interested to hear what he was dying to say. "A 5 or 6," I said. "Me too," he said. "The ending wasn't very good."
No, it wasn't--not the special effects, and certainly not the concept. Do we really need another film where an übermonster is going to take over the world and it's up to one person to stop him? Personally, I had had enough of that after 1984's "Ghostbusters." For me, "Dylan Dog: Dead of Night" went downhill after the first act.
I tell you, though, that was some first act. Talk about class. The music, the visual design, and the whole "now" updating of the classic private eye noir films was seductively right-on. Brandon Routh as Dylan Dog, P.I., was as cool as Bogie or Mitchum. And the idea of setting it in New Orleans, where "The Big Easy" still simmers on the backburners of our minds, was genius--especially since the kind of former work that Dylan did was to serve as an "inspector" who, like his U.N. counterparts, was to keep certain oppositional parties honest in order to maintain an uneasy peace. The difference was that Dylan's assignments weren't nations. They were monster nations: werewolves, vampires, and zombies. And where better to blend in inconspicuously than in a city where no one sleeps?
I might tell you why Dylan got out of that racket and slumped into a modern-day P.I. role chasing after philanderers, but even after hearing the explanation I couldn't quite wrap my tiny mortal mind around it. Same with later explanations, which, by the way, were copious. If I had a dollar for every time one of the characters delivered expository information to explain the action, I'd have enough to buy a movie that I could understand. Don't get me wrong. This isn't completely unintelligible. The House of Vampires and the House of Werewolves are easy enough to understand. They're like the Capulets and Montagues, and as in "Romeo and Juliet," one of each house falls for the other. The focus is not on them, though. From the end of the stylish first act it's on monsters--more precisely, on battling monsters--and on Dylan's past as it impacts his present situation. The case he's working on involves a woman (Anita Briem, "The Tudors") who saw who killed her father . . . or rather, what killed him. The police wouldn't believe her, but a little bird told her that Dylan would.
So Dylan takes the case and investigates what amounts to a gang war between the werewolves, whose front is the Cysnos Meat Packing Plant, and the vampires or "true bloods," who run a nightclub where they peddle a drug made from their own blood that pumps up the party. Assisting him is Marcus (Sam Huntington), an eager leg-man who wants to become a full-fledged partner. That's not going to happen, Dylan tells him, because of his past. He knows it might catch up to him, and if that happens, bad things will happen to people around him.
Yet, Marcus doesn't seem unduly stressed by visits to a top werewolf (Peter Stormare, "Prison Break," as Gabriel) or vampire (Taye Diggs, "Allly McBeal," as Vargas). The guy's more unflappable than a starched pennant. Sorry. I can't keep myself from talking like this, because I'm caught up in the P.I. thing.
The first act establishes a neo-noir detective vibe that's fortified by super-cool music, and for at least a third of the way "Dylan Dog" has more style than Tim Gunn could dream of. As I watched, I thought it held more promise than the first day of baseball season. I learned, since watching, that "Dylan Dog" is based on a comic book by Tiziano Sclavi, and that would certainly explain the tongue-in-cheek tone.
So where does it go wrong? Well, too much exposition through dialogue is one way, and ironically the explanations don't make complete sense. Somehow, too, the second and third acts seem to drag a bit, and maybe that's partially the result of all the explaining. But it also occurred to me that there was less detecting in this film than in most classic P.I. films and TV series. There was more battling monsters than there was brain-teasing. Some looked low-tech, while others looked like rip-offs of ones we'd seen before. The film is uneven, too, in terms of comedy. It'll go on forever in dramatic mode, and then suddenly you'll get a comedic riff---as when we peer in on a zombie support group. There should be a support group for moviegoers who get hooked by the first third of a film and disappointed by the rest.
"Dylan Dog" is rated PG-13 for tiny print I couldn't read on the Blu-ray cover. But I'm guessing it was language and comic violence, including lopping off of limbs and all sorts of grotesque things.
"Dylan Dog" comes to 25GB Blu-ray via an AVC/MPEG-4 transfer, and it's presented in 2.35:1 aspect ratio. I was reminded that grain registers as noise in a digital transfer as I watched this film, because there was a noticeable amount of grain. Black levels seemed a little off as well, because in low-lit scenes detail often got lost in shadows. Other scenes that looked a bit soft were augmented by fog or other atmospheric elements, and so I can appreciate the intent. It is neo-noir, at least when the film steers into classic P.I. territory.
The audio rocks. The featured English DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack is dynamic, especially during club or action scenes. There's also a lot of rear-effects support throughout the film that sustains the immersive experience. The bass thumps, the mid-tones grind, and the treble is bright and clear. There are no additional audio options, but subtitles are in English SDH or Spanish.
What extras? Surprisingly, for a recent release, it's just the movie. Maybe the zombies ate the bonus features.
"Dylan Dog" is rated PG-13 for tiny print I couldn't read on the Blu-ray cover. But I'm guessing it was language and comic violence, including lopping off of limbs and all sorts of grotesque things. It begins with flair and ends with flare--as in those dynamite-shaped sticks truckers put on the highway to signal that there's trouble. "Dylan Dog" works best when it has fun with P.I. conventions; when the monsters take over, it goes downhill.