The title is irresistible. The movie? Not so much. No doubt it sounded like a crackerjack idea to get high-tech vampire whiz Timur Bekmambetov out of Russia to meg. But his homegrown vampire hits (NIGHT WATCH/’04 and DAY WATCH/’06) didn’t go over Stateside and this proved equally unfathomable/unpalatable. At first, there’s a sense of amusing gall in filling up ‘Lincoln lacunae’ with secret vampire-hunting excursions, even a kind of nutcase logic to it. But Bekmambetov scrambles the goofball idea with CGI action sequences so disjointed that nothing adds up, each shot feels like a discrete unit. And things only get worse once we skip ahead to the Civil War with the vampires joining Team South and lousy aging make-up for all the non-non-dead. (Or should that be ‘the un-undead?’) The fun in these ‘what if’ fantasies is seeing how a crazy idea plays out against a background that’s as fact-driven as possible. But little in here follows thru on characters we know all too well. Heck, they can’t even get their vampire mythology right. (Silver bullets are for werewolves. Right?) Hard to know if the cultural fumbling falls on Bekmambetov or scripter Seth Grahame-Smith, fresh from regrettable work on Tim Burton’s unhappy DARK SHADOWS/’12. At least the non-CGI stuff is elegantly lit by lenser Caleb Deschanel, and you could hardly improve on the actors. Benjamin Walker has a great physique (head & bod) for the young Lincoln, and wins bonus points by letting us see what a young Liam Neeson might have done with the part. Rufus Sewell is under-used, as usual, but excellent as the baddie while the real standout is Jimmi Simpson as Lincoln’s ambivalent buddy. A nice step up from the snide intern he used to play for David Letterman on THE LATE SHOW.
WATCH THIS, NOT THAT: It’s not exactly great, but THE WIND AND THE LION lets Brian Keith take a ripping shot at playing a pre-Prez Teddy Roosevelt.