RENFIELD (2023) is a terrific movie trapped inside a bad movie. I don’t know how else to put it.
In this film, Renfield (Nicholas Hoult) has been serving Dracula (Nicholas Cage) for over a century. Exhausted by constantly finding victims and fleeing vampire hunters, he brings his master to America and starts to question their relationship after a chance walk-in with a support group for emotionally dependent personalities. He gains the seed of independence and self worth and hopes to act on it, but rejecting the evil, narcissistic, and vengeful prince of darkness will be no easy thing.
What an amazing setup for a movie, truly killer high concept and fertile ground for an excellent, deep, and dark comedy. Unfortunately, it’s not explored to its full potential. Instead, we get a major plot line involving an organized crime family and a cop seeking justice for her murdered father. This rote storyline helps catalyze Renfield’s journey but dominates the film, hoping to please fans with a lot of CGI action and Monty Python levels of gore but ultimately just eating up the run time. The result is a movie with two personalities, and the dominant one is the paint-by-numbers crowd pleaser.
Nicholas Hoult and Nicholas Cage are terrific actors and always great to look at. Cage in particular transcends even his usual Cageyness to bring something zany and new but also familiar to a role that has been played many times before. Their characters’ conflict is the real gem even if it’s largely obscured by the mob/cop plot, ironically showing us a different kind of codependent relationship between telling a good story and satisfying expectations, a case study for Hollywood’s tendency to avoid complexity to please the most amount of people.
All that said, RENFIELD ain’t a bad movie. Just the opposite, I quite liked it for its better qualities. I just wished it had been lovable, as it so easily could have achieved with its terrific premise.