Ethan Hawke vampire flick Daybreakers squanders its actors

Ethan Hawke
Ethan Hawke


Directed by Michael Spierig and Peter Spierig. Starring Ethan Hawke, Willem Dafoe, and Sam Neill. Rated R.

No fashion-conscious multiplex movie should face opening day without some grave issue of our day propped in its buttonhole. Last year's sci-fi blockbusters took on apartheid (District 9) and the Indian Wars (Avatar) not a moment too soon; Daybreakers dials up resource scarcity, class conflict, the military-industrial complex, and big pharma. (Actual line: "It was never about a cure. It's about repeat business.") The rationed near-future of Daybreakers recalls Soylent Green — except here everyone knows they're eating people, because almost everyone is a vampire in 2019. Where the trailer ploddingly spelled out the horror-dystopia setup ("Imagine a world..."), Daybreakers opens on a cool, obliquely shot, dialogue-free prologue that shows life after the vampire plague — and how frictionless-slick codirectors Michael and Peter Spierig are. Unrest grows as drinkable blood from living humans, now factory-farmed, runs out. Ethan Hawke plays a hesitant blood sipper, a hematologist looking for a synthetic substitute, who falls in with a band of free-range mortals who're working on a cure while organic farming. There are pleasures here: The "Subsiders" — degenerate, starving, cannibal Nosferatu — are effectively awful; Sam Neill is hambone-wicked as a vulpine CEO. But wearisome "Ain't it cool?" videogame splatter-violence is all that's memorable of the action, while a (mixed) metaphorical subtext of conservationism can't save a text that squanders its actors.

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