The third installment in the “Dracula 2000” series (the “2000” having been dropped with the sequels in favor of Roman numerals), “Legacy” picks up where “Ascension” left off, with vampire battling priest Father Uffizi (Jason Scott Lee, “Soldier”) badly injured from his run-in with Dracula (played by Stephen Billington in the first sequel, Rutger Hauer here). Soon, Uffizi and former med student Luke (Jason London) are globe hopping their way to Romania, where Dracula has made camp in one of those old, derelict castles that doesn’t look anywhere livable, but filmmakers insist on shooting in them anyway because, you know, they look cool and stuff.
In a war-torn Romania, Uffizi and sidekick Luke join forces with journalist Julia Hughes (Alexandra Wescourt), who has had a run-in with some hungry vampires herself. The trio makes their way to Dracula’s castle, although why Julia is still hanging around after her cameraman and helicopter pilot were munched on is anybody’s guess. It’s easy to see why Uffizi is there — this is his life mission; and Luke is trying to rescue his girlfriend. I suppose the script by director Patrick Lussier and co-writer Joel Soisson (aka the hardest working man in Romania) needed a love interest for Uffizi, who loses his collar after his boss/Cardinal (Roy Scheider, in a blink and you’ll miss cameo) turns down his request for more aid to pursue Dracula.
For you see, Uffizi has been bitten, and every morning he has to stand out in the sunlight and allow the sun’s powers to drive back the vampiric infection for yet another day. Naturally, after witnessing one of Uffizi’s morning purification acts, reporter Julia Hughes falls madly in love with him. And when I say “naturally”, I of course mean “because it’s in the script, stupid”. There’s no reason for Julia to fall in love with Uffizi and vice versa; not only is the secret about Uffizi’s vampirism out, but he’s just a few weeks removed from the priesthood. Granted, Jason Scott Lee is a very handsome man, not to mention insanely buff, but in the midst of a vampire feeding frenzy, civil war, and the recently dead bodies of colleagues, is it such a good idea to fall in love?
The direction by Patrick Lussier, who has co-written and directed all three films in the series, remains noticeably jumpy, especially during the action scenes. There’s a sequence near the middle where Uffizi must slaughter his way through a hallway full of vampires. The sequence starts off well, but less than 30 seconds later, it has devolved into a series of quick cuts and shots of fake blood spraying walls. In fact, the use of “fake blood spraying wall” gag must be one of Lussier’s favorites, because he uses it over and over. It’s a little cheesy, not to mention denying the audience of seeing the actual decapitations that’s supposedly taking place offscreen. Who wants to “imagine” when the filmmakers could have just as easily showed it?
“Legacy” is slightly better than “Ascension”, but the latter film was so mediocre it couldn’t have been that hard to top it. The dead-on chemistry between Jason Scott Lee and Jason London is the film’s real surprise, with the glib interactions between the two making up the movie’s best moments. Lee gets to spout some nice one-liners and London’s constant wisecracking is amusing. One appreciates London and Lee’s chemistry even more when the very somber Third Act arrives, effectively ending all Buddy Cop chatter. And for much of its running time, “Legacy” resembles an entertaining Buddy Cop film more than anything else.
But the film’s primary selling point is its vampire battles, which are as lackluster as, well, all the vampire action in the series so far. The action is not only hindered by the often jerky editing, but by a lack of continuity with the vampires themselves. Sometimes the bloodsuckers can move as fast as lightning, and at other times they’re clumsy and move like Michael Moore rushing an all you can eat buffet. There are moments when Lussier pulls off really good establishing shots of the vampires, only to screw the whole thing up when Uffizi easily dispatches of them. Speaking of which, I have no idea how these vampires managed to survive this long; they have the combined combat skills of snails and Drew Barrymore at a Mensa function.
Even Dracula himself goes down so fast you have to believe the filmmakers could only afford to pay Rutger Hauer for a day’s work. In fact, Hauer’s screentime is just slightly longer than Roy Scheider’s minute long cameo, which Lussier re-uses more than once. For two films that were shot back-to-back, both “Ascension” and “Legacy” feel disjointed and incompatible. Between the time the med kids were torturing Dracula in “Ascension” and Uffizi is tracking down Dracula in “Legacy”, everything else feels like gratuitous padding. (And what is this sudden obsession with shooting two movies back-to-back? Once again, the Wachowski brothers are responsible for yet another superfluous filmmaking gimmick. Bullet-time being the other.)
Even approaching the series purely from a genre fan’s point of view, the “Dracula 2000” franchise seems to have run completely out of steam, even if “Legacy” basically sets up yet another sequel. It was a good idea by Lussier and Soisson to set the third installment against the backdrop of civil war in Romania, but even all that noise in the background can’t hide the fact that there should have just been only one “Dracula 2000” sequel. If not for Jason Scott Lee and his character’s Terminator-esque approach to vampire slaying, neither “Ascension” nor “Legacy” would have rated very highly at all.
Patrick Lussier (director) / Patrick Lussier, Joel Soisson (screenplay)
CAST: Jason Scott Lee …. Father Uffizi
Jason London …. Luke
Roy Scheider …. Cardinal Siqueros
Diane Neal …. Elizabeth Blaine
Alexandra Westcourt …. Julia Hughes
Rutger Hauer …. Dracula