Renfield Is 'Mediocre.' Nicolas Cage's Dracula Isn't

He's 'exactly what we wish for': critic
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 14, 2023 1:35 PM CDT

Nicolas Cage is back to his vampire roots. In Chris McKay's Renfield, Cage plays the mighty Dracula, while Nicholas Hoult plays his beleaguered and eponymous servant, whose duties include finding bodies for his boss to feed on. Only Renfield is a bit fed up with this toxic relationship, which is why he joins a support group. Hoult, of course, plays the leading role, but critics—who give the film a 62% rating on Rotten Tomatoes—generally agree that it's Cage who steals the show. Four takes:

  • For Kristy Puchko, Cage is the best thing going for this "cloyingly mediocre" film. He's "exactly what we wish for ... bringing the horror comedy to intoxicating heights of hilarity and strangeness." Indeed, he makes "a punchline out of any dialogue just through the zest of his delivery," Puchko writes at Mashable. Hoult's Renfield, on the other hand, is "about as engaging as boiled chicken" and has "zero chemistry" with his love interest, a police officer played by Awkwafina.
  • Brian Lowry argues the film fails to fully capitalize on Cage's "full-throated performance" and would have been better if the moviemakers played up the comedy more than the horror. It "derives most of its humor from over-the-top gore, an amusing-in-theory notion that inevitably yields diminishing returns," he writes at CNN. In particular, violent scenes in which Renfield battles mobsters cater "to a subset of the horror audience at the expense of those who might show up expecting something closer to a Mel Brooks-like spoof."

  • Yet "sometimes all you want from a movie is 93 minutes of well-wrought absurdity," and Renfield delivers, writes Manohla Dargis at the New York Times. "Fast, tight and blunt, the movie gets right to the point with a characteristically American mix of therapy-speak and jokey violence, and it largely stays on point." Cage steals every scene he's in, but Hoult impresses, too, she writes. He "externalizes Renfield's turmoil with precision" and "helps sell, passably, some flirty business" with Awkwafina's cop.
  • Hoult proves himself "an engaging rising star," in this "wickedly funny update" to a classic story, writes Amy Nicholson at the Wall Street Journal. "He's an actor with range: comedy and pathos, ambition and ignorance, sensitivity and selfishness—the ignoble, forgivable fool." But "Cage is simply doing a burlesque of Mike Myers's Dr. Evil from the Austin Powers franchise" and is "in the movie just enough not to overstay his welcome," she writes.
(More movie review stories.)

Get the news faster.
Tap to install our app.
Install the Newser News app
in two easy steps:
1. Tap in your navigation bar.
2. Tap to Add to Home Screen.