Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (July 28, 2011)
Some believe there’s a “Superman Curse” that causes misfortune on those connected to the Man of Steel. I think that’s ludicrous, at least as far as anything severe goes, but it does seem tough for Superman leads to get good work in other projects. Sure, Christopher Reeve worked steadily outside of Superman, but he never managed much success in these roles.
Five years after Superman Returns, Brandon Routh’s career has yet to set the world on fire. But he does get work, and he appears as the lead in a low-budget action-horror flick called Dylan Dog: Dead of Night.
Adapted from an Italian comic book, Dylan Dog (Routh) acts as an unusual private detective. Working in New Orleans, Dog deals with supernatural cases – or at least he used to, as he’s now moved onto more mundane infidelity gigs due to factors we learn about as the movie progresses.
Until he meets Elizabeth Ryan (Anita Briem), a young woman who claims a furry monster killed her father Alfred. Initially Dylan refuses to accept the case, but when the same creature kills his assistant Marcus (Sam Huntington), he relents. This leads him back into a world of werewolves, vampires and other beasts as he tries to get to the bottom of the situation.
Perhaps so many Superman actors can’t stand out in other roles because they find it hard to develop characters with darker sides. That seems to be the case for Routh, who seems woefully miscast as a haunted, hard-bitten detective. While I don’t think the part requires a traditional Humphrey Bogart or Mike Hammer tough guy sort, it could use someone with more heft to him than Routh. He maintains too much Iowa farmboy in him to play a big city detective who’s seen all sorts of freakiness in his line of work.
Not that I think Routh is bad as Dylan – he just is wrong for the part. He certainly tries his best and I can’t pin the movie’s moderate failure on him, though he doesn’t do anything to elevate the material. Again, that’s more the fault of the casting director than the actor; Routh attempts to play tough guy but just has the wrong personality for the part.
The biggest problem with Night comes from its general aimlessness. To be sure, the movie boasts a cool concept behind it, as the notion of a detective who specializes in cases related to the supernatural creates real intrigue.
Which is what makes it remarkable that director Kevin Munroe found himself so often unable to capitalize on all that potential. Night works best as it explores the seedy realm of vampires and the others; as we learn about this underworld, we’re interested to know more about its workings.
But Munroe can’t do much with the mundane plot. It gets into creatures who want to use an artifact to rule the world – blah blah blah. We’ve seen it before and we’ve seen it better; Night does nothing to deliver a story that involves us.
It also suffers from rather clunky action and movement. Munroe also had story problems with 2007’s TMNT but at least he gave the movie some decent action sequences. That doesn’t occur here, as the scenes tend to wobble and lack much visceral impact. Many of them seem like they should be cool but they’re not; they just look like amateurish attempts to borrow from better films like The Matrix.
All of this makes Dylan Dog: Dead of Night a disappointment. The movie has a low-budget feel and a lack of much to make it zoom. Though it could’ve been fun, it sputters too often.
Casting footnote: I imagine that the decision to pair Routh with Huntington – Jimmy Olsen from Superman Returns - wasn’t an accident. Since the Blu-ray includes no extras, however, we don’t get to hear from the filmmakers about this choice.