Renfield: Nicholas Hoult and Nicolas Cage shine in an outrageous and entertaining film
  • Release Date: – 14/04/2023
  • Cast: – Nicolas Cage, Nicholas Hoult, Awkwafina
  • Director: – Chris McKay  

The standard of Hollywood entertainers has plummeted so shockingly over the last few years that even the slightest hint of good and clean entertainment that has no underlying agenda deserves to be celebrated. It is also a fact that very few films these days are meant only to entertain. Even fewer are actually interesting or original ideas. 

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Renfield is in no way a perfect or great film but it somehow ticks all the right boxes on its way to becoming an entertaining albeit uneven entertainer. The film tries to bring in the sensibility and charm of old Dracula films and combine it with more contemporary problems like toxic relationships, organized crime, corruption in the police etc. In the end, what we get is a solid ninety minutes of entertainment that is drenched in gallons of blood that are unabashedly spilt across numerous efficiently choreographed and executed action set pieces.

The story: –

This is the story of Renfield (Nicholas Hoult), a faithful but tortured and conflicted servant of Dracula (Nicolas Cage) who desperately wants to get out of the servant-master relationship. He gets superpowers from his master that are triggered when he eats insects. He spends his nights bringing in humans, who he believes are evil, for his master to consume.

Renfield (Nicholas Hoult) and Dracula (Nicholas Cage)

Things take an interesting turn for him when he gets entangled in a gang war and befriends a police officer, Rebecca (Awkwafina) at the same time after saving her life on multiple occasions. He finally starts developing the courage to say no to his master and maybe come out of the toxic relationship.

Sadly, it proves to be a lot more difficult than Renfield expected, especially when his master is a marauding and vengeful psychopath who is not shy of sharing his powers with the vilest of men to just bring Renfield to his feet.

Strong first half that has plentiful action, comedy and thrills: –

The film begins strong. I was completely immersed in the voice-over narration of the character of Renfield and the visuals that complemented it. The film downloaded a lot of information in the first 15-20 minutes of its runtime and all of it was done efficiently. There was flair and physicality in the action sequences. Even though the proceedings felt breakneck, they always remained intelligible.

Rebecca (Awkwafina)

The relationship between Dracula and Renfield was established well enough and we were given enough information to understand why Renfield is dependent on him and why he can’t let go of Dracula’s services. How Renfield ran into Rebecca and how quickly their relationship developed was also done proficiently. I had no major problems with this portion.

Well-choreographed action sequences: –

In the first half of the film, the action sequences come in at a violent rate. These sequences, while edited in the extremely annoying hyper-editing style and shot with a shaky camera, were able to somehow establish the physicality and brutality of what the director wanted to convey through the action sequences. Some set pieces and unthinkably violent things that are shown in these sequences would make many momentarily cringe albeit in a good way.

The superpowers of Renfield, though limited, are used to infuse a sense of awe in the action sequences. It is also a fact that Nicholas Hoult looks too innocent and sweet to pull off the kind of things that he is shown doing. This adds a dash of surprise and conflict to the action sequences and enhances the fun in the sequences.

The pacing of the film suffers drastically in the 2nd half: –

While the pace at which the film gallops, in the beginning, proved to be one of the best things about it for me, this pace drastically comes down in the second half. A lot of time is spent in conversations between Renfield and Rebecca and Renfield and Dracula.

The sequences involving Nicolas Cage were interesting because of how well he performed his portions. It goes beyond saying that he has a craziness about himself that not only serves the character really well but also makes everything involving him unpredictable and fun. His chemistry with Hoult also works and the quirky comedy between the two worked fairly well for me.

Still from the film Renfield

I hope I could say the same about the chemistry between Hoult and Awkwafina and their portions together but that is never the case. While Awkwafina is a lot less annoying here and I somewhat enjoyed her mellowed-down performance, the portions involving her and Hoult bring the narrative to a screeching halt on more than one occasion. I just wanted their discussions to get over so that we could get to the interesting bits.

It must also be noted that these portions do very little for the story and apart from a few revelations here and there adds nothing to the story or the characters. Even the romantic angle is also not developed well enough and many may even question its existence. Thus, these portions feel extremely boring and spoil the fun of an otherwise racy entertainer.

The comedy of the film is halfhearted: –

The initial half of the film plays with the idea of going full Monty with the comedy but as the story progresses, darker elements are introduced and the comedy takes a back seat. If the director wanted to go the comedic way, he should have stuck with that approach. By changing his approach in the second half, he creates two problems for the film. The audiences who were enjoying the comedy are now dissatisfied with the lack of it.

The audiences who liked the serious and grotesque portions cannot take these parts too seriously as they have already sat through an entire half where lighthearted comedy was thrown in even when the characters were doing truly appalling things. Thus, the film feels inconsistent and almost like two different films in two halves.

The usage of blood in the action sequences could have been better thought out: –

I also have a few qualms about the action sequences of the film. While the action choreography primarily worked for me, I was not too happy with how the blood was used in the action sequences. Gallons and gallons of blood gushing from the simplest of cuts made the sequences feel too flimsy and hampered the suspension of disbelief. A more grounded approach to this effect would have definitely turned up the effectiveness of these sequences and would have made the action and the violence a lot more impactful.

Nicholas Hoult as Renfield is fantastic: –

One must remember that this is not Dracula’s story. It is Renfield’s story and he is the man in the centre of the action. Nicholas Hoult has made a name for himself for playing odd characters including the unforgettable character that he played in Mad Max Fury Road. I thoroughly enjoyed his performance here. He brings his best to the character.

It is apparent that he believes in the things that his character is shown doing and he is exceptionally warm in the sequences where he speaks about his relationship issues and the toll that it is taking on him.

Nicholas Cage playing Dracula in the film Renfield

The portions where he doesn’t speak and is shown reacting to the revelations of the others also worked because of how he performs them. He holds his own in the violent sequences and is also efficient in his scenes with Awkwafina even though those sequences are some of the weakest in the film.

Final words: –

A film like this would not have worked a few years ago for me. Sadly, times have changed and this has contributed to enhancing the value of even mediocre projects like this to a whole new pedestal because of the unabashed entertainment that it sets out to put forth.

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Renfield has proficient performances, interesting action, racy storytelling and an element of surprise to keep you interested. The fact that it has Nicholas Cage playing Dracula will be enough to make many go to the theatres. Even for the ones who are not Cage fans, this might just prove to be an interesting and entertaining watch for the weekend.

Rating: – 3/5 (3 out of 5 Stars)

The views expressed in this article are that of the reviewer and do not reflect EastMojo’s position.

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