Vampire Cop Ricky (흡혈 형사 나도열, Lee Si-myung: 2006)

Na-do is a corrupt cop who, after being bitten by a mosquito carrying vampire blood, finds himself  quite partial to the taste of the red stuff. He also discovers that he sprouts a pair of fangs and has incredible strength when ever he is sexually aroused. When the gangsters that he has been in cohoots with attempt to kill him, Na-do realises that he’s going to have to make some changes to reclaim his friendships, take his revenge on the gangsters – and to get the girl…

From its light-hearted opening scenes which depict a vampire in his castle in Transylvania being bitten by a mosquito, its clear that Vampire Cop Ricky is going to be quirky. The film then moves into semi-serious territory as we’re introduced to corrupt cop Na-do, then it’s not long before he’s bitten by the infected bug. Somewhere along here we see a couple of tone changes until suddenly the goofiness is ramped up by the vampire transformations and super-powers, while the semi-serious plot gets a bit more serious. Vampire Cop Ricky doesn’t handle these transitions from goofy to serious with any subtlety. For anyone who likes a consistent tone or a sense of over-arching development this will be one to avoid. Sure, our hero learns lessons at the end of the day, and the film is given an interesting conclusion that would be more effective for a more carefully evened movie, but ultimately Vampire Cop Ricky lurches all over the place throwing in drama, comedy and action without any real care for how it all gels together.

That said, for anyone looking for a silly and entertaining couple of hours Vampire Cop Ricky still delivers. There’s a lot of great gags, some impressive action scenes with the sort of  stylish choreography which is rarely seen in Korean cinema outside of a Ryoo Seung-wan film, and a really strong cast. Subtlety s not the key here, several big jokes centre around the concept that our hero turns vampiric when he’s feeling horny. Still, Kim Su-ro carries off the lead with ease, and it’s not just his ability to mug and deliver great comedy timing that gets him through – as usual he shows a natural ability for drama and while he has a few moments which call on these dramatic skills Vampire Cop Ricky is not the place for much more than a few character beats. Then we’re back to the comedy and mugging.

The rest of the cast are equally strong although incredibly underused as Kim Su-ro gets more than the lions share of the screen time and it feels like everyone else is just filling the gaps. As the frustrated Inspector Kang Jeon Ho-jin tries to add some emotional gravitas to his friendship with Na-do but fails to register as much more than a tired looking friend. Jo Yeo-jeong doesn’t get much more to do than just be very cute as Na-dos taken-for-granted girlfriend, although the the relationship between the two of them is nicely convincing. Then there’s Oh Kwang-rok who makes a brief appearance as a vampire hunter (a la Lam Ching Ying) which is potentially great but which only really used for exposition. It’s only Son Byung-ho who manages to really stands out in a performance that just manages to stay on the right side of offensive as camp gangster Tak Mun-su who goes head to head with Na-do in a performance that incorporates creepy and very funny with good effect.

Technically there’s little to fault in Vampire Cop Ricky. With a sparing use of CGI effects along with real effects and stunt-work, the vampire powers and appearance are kept refreshingly simple. The use of contact lenses and false teeth are the extent of the look, so it’s really down to Kim Su-ros performance to dig into the vampire stuff – something which he appears to have great fun doing. Cinematography is unremarkable but manages not to get in the way – a couple of flashy long crane shots are about the biggest flourishes, everything else is kept pretty simple and this works well given the reliance on the central performance. It really is the script itself which could be give the most criticism – there’s some standout moments and a lot of great ideas in Ricky, so it’s just a shame that the whole thing isn’t better tied in together. Many people won’t find this a problem as it ultimately delivers on the entertainment front. It’s the script that makes helps to make Vampire Cop Ricky a good comedy, but keeps it from being a great one.

It’s a film that will divide its viewers, Vampire Cop Ricky may be seen to not live up to its potential or the abilities of its cast, but it’s also nearly two hours of daft entertainment with a few laugh out loud moments and some cracking action. Ultimately this should probably be filed under ‘guilty pleasure’…

흡혈 형사 나도열 (Vampire Cop Ricky)
Directed by Lee Si-myung
Produced by Choi Yong-bae, Lee Si-myung, Kim Ik-sang
Written by Kim Se-gyeom, Jeon Soon-wook, Namgung Kyun, Kim Soo-yeong
Starring Kim Su-ro, Jeon Ho-jin, Oh Kwang-rok, Son Byung-ho, Jo Yeo-jeong

Vampire Cop Ricky Image © SM-Film, Chungeorahm Films