– By MovieCritic NextDoor
You know you’re in for a wild ride when a movie’s first shot is of Ice-T playing the trumpet in a 1930’s speakeasy, with a couple of corrupt cops enjoying the show. Throw in some vampires and things are guaranteed to get weird. If you think about it, Prohibition would have been an excellent time to be a creature of the night, since so many otherwise regular people were already getting swept up into doing sneaky things as it was. Even some cops took bribes to ignore bootlegging operations. As one character puts it, who doesn’t live a double life these days?
Speaking of which, Ice-T (here playing Chester) is the owner of the newest speakeasy in South Hampton, Pennsylvania, called Chesterfield’s. Parts of the movie were filmed in a former speakeasy, which adds a nice touch. Given the era, Chester doesn’t like to make a big deal of the fact that he’s the owner as well as the bandleader, so he has Victor (Peter Patrikios) as a front, since he blends into the largely white area much better.
But Chester has other secrets, too, and two of the aforementioned corrupt cops want to find out what they are. Jack Malone (Michael McFadden) is the senior partner, a cynical, grizzled veteran of The Great War who does his best not to remember the things he saw there while quietly taking kickbacks and beating up suspects. Sam (Dan McGlaughlin) looks like a choirboy but is happy to line his pockets with payoffs, and he and Jack are sure there are big payoffs to be had from Chesterfield’s.
Meanwhile, love is blooming between Willie (Chris Boylan), who works at Chesterfield’s as a busboy, and Anna (Airen DeLaMater). But Anna’s mother, Rosie (Kerry McGann), doesn’t want her only child mixed up with a busboy. Rosie has always had to work hard — as the local madam — to support herself and her daughter, and she wants Anna to have a comfortable life. Willie is just keeping his head down, trying to find his big break. When Jack and Sam decide that he’s their ticket to finding out Chester’s secrets, though, all bets are off.
The film uses most of the standard vampire lore — there’s even a crazy preacher (Jack Hoffman) to help out with the more esoteric knowledge — but they also have fun with it, and the setting gives it a fresh angle. As unbelievable as the storyline may be, the characters are all realistic and well fleshed out. Jack’s past affects him in unexpected ways, as long-suppressed memories resurface, while Chester has an air of menace about him that lets him steal all his scenes. Even Anna isn’t just a damsel in distress, though of the female characters it’s unfortunately only Rosie who really gets to shine.
I admit, I didn’t know what to make of this movie at first. After years of watching SVU it was jarring to see Ice-T in anything historical, even aside from the addition of vampires. But once I got past that, I had a blast watching and actually forgot all about Finn in favor of Chester — Ice-T’s acting was fairly impressive. I also love history and aside from the blood not being quite the right color I thought the look and feel of the film was wonderful. It evoked the spirit of the 30’s while still making the characters seem real and relatable. I didn’t expect to be saying this, but I’ll give it four out of five. It was a wild and fun ride.