Starring: Nicolas Cage, Nicholas Hoult, Awkwafina, Ben Schwartz, and Shohreh Aghdashloo
Director: Chris McKay
Let's start with the good: Nicolas Cage is endlessly watchable as he takes a bite out of every scene as Dracula, while Nicholas Hoult continues to show off his impressive range. Plus, there are some gruesome kills that are sure to entertain. That's about it for the good. Renfield is filled with an array of plot holes, cliché side stories, a grating Awkwafina performance, and a generally goofy tone. Even though it's seemingly aware of how ridiculous it is and has some fun with it (unlike Cocaine Bear), it’s just not enough to make up for its flaws. An average film at best.
While the story may be a little lacking, especially the weak mob angle that is made even worse by revolving around Awkwafina, Renfield is still a lot of fun thanks to the hilariously violent fight scenes and, of course, Nic Cage, who is clearly relishing the opportunity to play Dracula. Even with my personal Cage bias acknowledged, he is flat-out terrific here, often eliciting laughs from nothing more than a facial expression. Don’t get me wrong, Nicholas Hoult is great too, but Cage is the reason to see Renfield, a Halloween-themed cousin to Violent Night that is sure to be an annual rewatch every October.
If you can entertain the hell out of me, even the dumbest movies can get a pass. I can’t say that’s the case with Renfield. I love the undying commitment from Nicolas Cage as a maddening, narcissistic Dracula, but he wasn’t enough for me. If it had stayed focused on the codependent relationship plot, it could have been interesting; however, the detour into a crime plot didn’t interest me enough, and the jokes had way too many misses for me to care. Not even Nicolas Cage could give this film enough life for a passing grade.
There is some fun to be had in Renfield, namely in its two lead performances and one pretty kick-ass apartment terrace scene, but that fun is hampered by a fairly so-so script with awkward tonal shifts and distorted scene geography in almost every other action sequence. Nicholas Hoult is good but underserved, whereas Nicolas Cage may be one of the best on-screen Draculas ever despite being thoroughly underused. And with the addition of two subplots that are never as entertaining or interesting as they clearly want to be, the film can never quite find its footing enough to stand.