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
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.
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.