Directed By: Neil Jordan

Starring: Saoirse Ronan, Gemma Arterton, Sam Riley, Jonny Lee Miller, and Caleb Landry Jones

As prevalent as vampire movies are, it's difficult to find a good one.  The ones we've gotten in recent years say enough.  Just go torture yourself with Twilight, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, or Kiss of the Damned.  Like the horror genre as a whole, it's bad, but it just keeps on going.  When Neil Jordan, the director who created the delightfully devilish show The Borgias, got involved with indie vampire flick Byzantium, I actually found a glimmer of hope for a good vampire movie.  After all, we have a solid director who's not limited by the creative constraints of mainstream cinema.  While Byzantium ultimately isn't a rousing success, it is a few notches above the nonsense we typically get at the box office.

For more than two hundred years, mother and daughter Clara (Gemma Arterton) and Eleanor (Saoirse Ronan) have been living in England as vampires.  With Eleanor being forever young after being turned at the age of 16, they move from place to place with Clara taking care of her.  To pay the bills, Clara employs the one trade she has mastered — prostitution.  After things go awry in the town in which they're currently living and Clara kills a vampire that chases her from the strip club at which she worked, the two female vampires move to a town just off the English coast.  There, Clara meets a man by the name of Noel (Daniel Mays).  He's grieving the passing of his mother, and Clara uses her assets to influence him and move into his mother's old hotel Byzantium.  Meanwhile, Eleanor meets a young guy by the name of Frank (Caleb Landry Jones) whom she would like to tell her story, one that can never be told to a mortal without deadly consequences.

In the hands of director Neil Jordan, Byzantium doesn't quite live up to its potential.  With dark cinematography, a brooding tone, and a potent score, Jordan deftly creates a bone-chilling environment where vampires can thrive.  His cast delivers solid performances.  The problem with Byzantium, however, is that the story is entirely too long and overly predictable, two things that can easily drag a film down.  The movie could have packed quite a punch if it had been a half hour shorter.  There's no need to tread the predictable fare we've seen in a million vampire movies prior.  Jordan focuses on this aspect of the story too much, and it costs Byzantium.

Our leads give strong performances, especially given the dynamics of 27 year-old Gemma Arterton portraying the mother of 19 year-old Saoirse Ronan.  As overprotective mother Clara, Quantum of Solace Bond girl Arterton gives a dark, alluring performance.  She may be Eleanor's savior, burden, and muse, but Arterton's Clara is a pure delight on camera.  Every moment she's on screen, she will command your attention.  As Eleanor, Saoirse Ronan gives us a little old woman trapped in the body of a 16 year-old.  Her character embraces the past and, at times, lives in it.  Ronan gives a low-key performance for the most part that plays into this quite well.

All in all, Byzantium could have been a better movie.  In fact, it could have been the first great vampire movie in a long, long time.  The setting is there.  The actresses deliver.  The story just isn't right.  Byzantium gets a 0.06% rating. Have a couple of glasses of White Zinfandel with this one.