07/15/2013 02:25 pm ET Updated Sep 14, 2013

Popcorn Preview: Byzantium

Film: Byzantium (2012)
Cast includes: Saoirse Ronan (Hanna, The Lovely Bones), Gemma Arterton (Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters), Warren Brown (The Dark Knight Rises), Gabriela Marcinkova (360), Caleb Landry Jones (No Country for Old Men), Daniel Mays (The Adventures of Tintin), Uri Gavriel (The Band's Visit), Sam Riley (On the Road), Thure Lindhardt (Flame and Citron), Maria Doyle Kennedy (Downton Abbey)
Director: Neil Jordan (The Crying Game, Michael Collins)
Writer: Moira Buffini (Tamara Drewe)
Genre: Drama | Fantasy | Thriller (118 minutes)

"My story can never be told. I write it over and over whenever we find shelter. Then I throw it to the wind... for the birds to read." The old man should have let the scraps blow away, but he couldn't help picking them up, seeing Eleanor at the balcony. "She had meant to smother it the minute it was born, but then she looked at it. My story starts with Clara..." At this point, the scene changes to Clara, the most steamy lap dancer ever. On the security camera, we see that her client has become agitated and things seem to be getting ugly... yet again. "Have you seen this girl?" asks a man with a photo of Clara. "We get a lot of bitches in here, but she takes the prize," the owner says. "Why do you put up with her?" "She's morbidly sexy..." and wickedly fast as she escapes.

The old man invites Eleanor in for tea. "I was him once," he says, as he shows her the photo album. The woman is his brother's wife. "I loved her my whole life. She never knew... There comes a time in life when secrets should be told," he says. "Are you sure?" He is. When Eleanor knows he's ready, her thumbnail grows into a dagger. One small puncture, and she can drink his life dry. It's clean and simple. Meanwhile, Clara's pursuer chases her all the way back to the apartment. Just when he lets down his guard, Clara beheads him with a garrote. What a mess. Blood sprays everywhere. "How could you bring him here?" says Eleanor. They have to leave in a hurry. They set fire to the place and hitch a ride out of town. "We've been here before," says Eleanor when they arrive. "It's gonna be good here. I can feel it," says Clara. "That's what you said about the last place." First things first... they need money. Clara works the streets. "Fifty for a blow. One hundred for a full whack."

Noel gives her a fifty, but soon confides that his mother has just died, leaving him a boarding house. Could Noel be their "knight in shining armor?" In the meantime, Eleanor's piano playing has attracted the attention of Frank, a sickly young man who's intrigued by Eleanor's mysterious nature. Eleanor and her "sister" are about as different as sisters could possibly be, but they're bound together by mysterious forces. "There's a code we need to live by." The new town... which isn't really new to them... causes Eleanor to have flashbacks. Bit by bit, we learn about Eleanor, Clara and the others. There are indeed others... dangerous others. Byzantium is a deeply gothic vampire tale that weaves 200-year-old history with a modern day drama. The story is smartly conceived with lots of unexpected turns. It's beautifully produced and directed with a wonderful cast. Unfortunately, it has some genre identity issues. Vampire movies usually appeal to teens and young adults, but Byzantium is more likely to appeal to grown-ups. It's seductive and dark, with many delightful plot twists. Clara survives on lies... Eleanor longs for truth... but truth could be their destruction. "I am 16 forever."

4 popped kernels (Scale: 0-4)
Vampire "sisters" return to the place where their story began, but it could well be the place where their story ends

Popcorn Profile
Rated: R (violence, sexual content)
Audience: Grown-ups
Distribution: Art house
Mood: Neutral
Tempo: Zips right along
Visual Style: Computer effects
Primary Driver: Plot development
Language: True to life
Social Significance: Pure entertainment

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