One has to feel a bit bad for Brandon Routh after Superman Returns. With impossibly high expectations that couldn’t be fulfilled from a story perspective as well as a box office one, what should’ve been a star-making vehicle for the actor ended up being considered a failure. Why?
Because it wasn’t what it was supposed to be on both commercial and critical levels.
He has a great screen presence and leading man looks but hasn’t quite found a vehicle to make him a star, settling for smaller roles in smaller films. A scene-stealing turn in Zack and Miri Make a Porno and a handful of supporting parts later (including a hilarious turn in Scott Pilgrim vs. the World), Routh has a character actor’s career despite being a leading man. Now comes another starring vehicle based off a comic book property: Dylan Dog: Dead of Night.
Based off the eponymous Italian comic book “Dylan Dog,” Routh stars as the title character. A paranormal private investigator, Dylan is a specialist in all things supernatural. If it has been a movie monster or the focus of a horror genre he’s tracked it down; once charged with keeping the peace between the undead and the living, he’s now a gumshoe with a zombie partner (Sam Huntington) and a case to solve. The murder of the father of the film’s femme fatale (Anita Briem) by a werewolf brings him into action as what appears to be a murder mystery that turns into something much more. And it has a killer premise, pardon the pun, and style.
Kevin Munroe hasn’t been known for any live action films, this representing his first major work to find itself into theatres that wasn’t a cartoon, and has crafted a horror film with the styling of a classic pulp detective story. Dylan Dog is a gumshoe that’d fit into any detective piece and he just happens to investigate the paranormal. There’s no difference between him and a character Bogart would play, which is rather nice in a way. Munroe has just taken a really good detective’s story, narration and plot devices intact, and just grafted it with horror elements.
It doesn’t hurt that he has Routh, who has just the right amount of seriousness and plenty of comic timing. Relied upon to provide the traditional narration of a detective’s story, Routh has a sort of self-effacing humor that gives the film a light-hearted sense of humor that lightens the mood up. Without it this is just pure camp; he carries the film effortlessly, like this is the sort of role he’s been waiting for. It’s just the right amount of comedy and drama for an actor who is skilled with the former and hasn’t quite shown chops for the latter.
The film’s problem is that it lives in a detective’s story with horror elements and doesn’t embrace it as much as it could. This is a PG-13 film, an admittedly harder version of the ranking, but that has the feeling and tone of an R-rated tome. The blood and violence is relatively tame and takes away from the seriousness of it all. It’s one thing to acknowledge that vampires exist, amongst others, but the violence coming from them is relatively tame. This is a detective who’s seen the gritty underbelly that few have and has a sort of cavalier attitude towards it and yet everything he sees is fairly tame for genre standards.
Dylan Dog: Dead of Night is going to be lost in the shuffle of the summer blockbuster season and it’s a shame; it might be one of the best films of summer.
Director: Kevin Munroe Notable Cast: Brandon Routh, Sam Huntington, Anita Briem, Taye Diggs, Kurt Angle Writer(s): Thomas Dean Donnelly and Joshua Oppenheimer based off the comic book series “Dylan Dog” by Tiziano Sciavi
Scott Sawitz is an Inside Pulse original. He's also been featured on The Ultimate Fighter.com, Fox Sports.com, Nerdcore Movement.com, CagePotato.com, Inside Fights.com and Film Arcade.net (among others). When Scott isn't writing about film he's making his own. Check out Drunk Justice Productions right here.