With his cushy gig on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit clocking in at 17 years (!) and counting, you wouldn’t think Ice-T would bother to venture out into low-budget, direct-to-video fare like this, but if there’s anything Ice-T has taught us over the years, it’s that he doesn’t care what you think. Thus, we have BloodRunners, a film in which he stars (or at least, he headlines, since it appears the filmmakers could afford him for only 10-15 minutes of screen time) as a Prohibition-era bootlegger and club owner who turns out to be the leader of a vampire clan.
New to the town of South Hampton, New Jersey, Chester’s (Ice-T) speakeasy Chesterfield’s draws the attention of the local corrupt police, who seem more concerned with taking kickbacks and frequenting the local brothel than actually fighting crime. Among them is Sgt. Jack Malone (Michael McFadden), a hard-boiled, alcoholic cop and World War I vet who’s seen some shit. He stumbles upon Chester’s bloodsucking secret and teams with a ragtag group of locals — including the club’s busboy and a raving lunatic preacher — in an attempt to stop Chester from draining the town dry.
BloodRunners oozes with competency — which is a statement that, if you’ve seen your share of DTV horror cheapies over the years, you might correctly identify as a compliment. There’s nothing particularly great about it, but let’s face it, the concept of Ice-T as a 1930s trumpet-playing gangster vampire doesn’t inspire confidence in the film’s potential, so the fact that it isn’t a steaming pile is a pleasant surprise.
In truth, the premise of vampires operating during the Prohibition — when elicit acts were par for the course and everyone operated under the cloak of darkness — is an intriguing one, especially when you replace running booze with running blood. I’ll leave judgment of the historical accuracy to Ken Burns, but the movie does find time to address the racial elephant in the room: Chester’s position of power over his mostly white clan (that’s with a “c”). He explains to the police that he has his white flunky Victor pose as the club’s owner because white people are more comfortable with that dynamic. Conveniently, that also explains Robin Thicke’s success.
Aside from that, BloodRunners stands out for some solid, seemingly authentic use of costumes (minus Ice-T’s earring) and vehicles and nicely executed set design and CGI effects, considering the budget. The cast is less impressive (though still competent), thanks in part to characters that range from bland to unlikable. But hey, at least it doesn’t “suck.”