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Blood and Chocolate **
Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Rossiter Drake*

The werewolves of Bucharest wage war against a graphic novelist in 'Blood and Chocolate.'

(Courtesy of San Francisco Examiner)

Starring: Agnes Bruckner, Hugh Dancy, Olivier Martinez, Katja Riemann, Bryan Dick. Rated PG-13.

Contrary to the curiously vicious ravings of bloggers and critics who should know better, Blood and Chocolate is a perfectly suitable title for the latest teenage werewolf fantasy from the producers of the popular Underworld saga. Based on Annette Curtis Klause’s book of the same name, the movie borrows the phrase from Herman Hesse’s Steppenwolf. It is a metaphor – and a simple one at that – for the internal forces that torment young Vivian (Agnes Bruckner), an otherwise normal girl who struggles to suppress her lupine taste for human flesh.

The source of her frustrations? A boy, of course. Vivian has fallen for Aiden (Hugh Dancy), a young American abroad in her native Bucharest who just happens to be researching his upcoming graphic novel about werewolves. Little does he know that he’s dating the pride of the pack – Vivian has been chosen by Gabriel (Olivier Martinez, from Unfaithful), the head wolf, to be his next bride. Naturally, she is torn between her familial allegiances and her very human desires, and the family couldn’t be less pleased.

Gabriel is particularly concerned about maintaining the pack’s low profile, fearing persecution and possible extinction. So he sends bloodthirsty Rafe (Bryan Dick) to swallow up Vivian’s indiscretion. When Aiden survives, the manhunt is on, though not with the barbaric gusto of, say, Apocalypto. Blood and Chocolate is an exercise in sanitized chaos, ensuring a PG-13 rating for all the teen readers who were drawn to Klause’s book, itself a simple metaphor for the difficulties of young womanhood.

The film’s climactic showdown, which should pack no surprises for anyone who has been paying attention, comes when Vivian is forced to choose between Aiden and the family. A standard shootout ensues – a curious choice for the grand finale, given the supernatural possibilities implicit in a movie about werewolves – and, after a laborious set-up, Blood and Chocolate rushes to a somewhat abrupt conclusion.

It’s all very silly stuff, but Bruckner, Dancy and Martinez do their best to keep the material grounded. Surprisingly, director Katja von Garnier focuses more on character and story than on the special effects, which are basic and unsophisticated. Otherwise, there are few shocks in the picture, save for the sloppy editing that will leave you scratching your head once the lights go up – provided, of course, you’re moved to devote any thought to what you’ve just seen.

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