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Revisiting historywith an ax

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Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter' gory fun and completely insane

By any measure, Abraham Lincoln was one of the greatest presidents this country has ever had. They don't put you on Mount Rushmore for being a slouch. But according to 'Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter,' there's a whole lot more to the legend of Honest Abe than America could have ever dreamed.

Directed by Timur Bekmambetov and adapted by Seth Grahame-Smith from his own 2010 novel of the same name, 'Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter' promised to be the wildest, most gloriously absurd offering of the entire summer. Frankly, the title tells you everything you need to know.

We start in 1818, where a nine-year-old Lincoln watches as bounty hunters try to take his free friend as a runaway slave. Young Lincoln tries to intercede, which leads in turn to Lincoln's father becoming involved, crossing shipping boss Jack Barts (Marton Csokas, 'Dream House') in the process. Barts takes his revenge on Lincoln's mother, slipping into the house and killing her before the boy's eyes.

Fast-forward a few years and we see a bitter and revenge-obsessed Lincoln (Benjamin Walker, 'Coach') working up the nerve to avenge his mother's death. In the bar he meets a mysterious man named Henry Sturgess (Dominic Cooper, 'My Week with Marilyn') a man who reveals to Lincoln what Barts really is. He's a vampire.

And there are a lot more of them.

Lincoln becomes Sturgess's apprentice, training to become an unstoppable killer of the undead. Upon completing his training, Sturgess sends Lincoln to Springfield, Illinois to await the names of those he must destroy. However, life gets in the way in Springfield we see Lincoln's interest in politics and the law blooming. Love also blooms in the person of Mary Todd (Mary Elizabeth Winstead, 'The Thing'), the young woman who catches Lincoln's eye.

Not to mention the Presidency and the Civil War and a feud with the 'Father of all Vampires.' No big deal.

No surprise; I really dug this movie. The thing with a premise as out-and-out ludicrous as this one, the only possible path to success is to go over-the-top huge with it. The blend of fantasy and reality needs to be audacious and utterly unapologetic. Silliness is unavoidable, but it can't be overtly acknowledged. That sense of self-awareness without too many winks and nudges to the audience is a primary key to the success of 'Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.'

Of course, the multiple sequences of Lincoln twirling an ax and murdering the everloving crap out of a whole lot of vampires are a contributing factor as well. And the vampires in this movie are a step back toward the terrifying bloodsuckers of the pre-Meyer (and let's be honest, pre-Rice) days. They are all teeth and magic powers and rage.

There are some clunky bits to the story, and the historical inaccuracies obviously abound, but if you're willing to accept the film's insane premise, a couple of awkward moments won't matter. The performances aren't anything to write home about; Walker is capable enough in a staid, stoic sort of way. You certainly buy him as Lincoln, but he's nothing special. The acting is mostly forgettable, but that's OK this movie is driven more by its premise than anything else.

'Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter' certainly isn't a great movie in fact, it sometimes seems to wallow in its B-movie sensibilities - but it knows exactly what it is. It boils down to this: If you've ever wanted to watch an American president slay evil creatures of the night, this is the film for you. And if you haven't, we clearly have nothing more to say to one another.

4 out of 5

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