IN 1997, Ethan Hawke costarred alongside Uma Thurman and Jude Law in Gattaca, a thoughtful sci-fi drama that explored the brave new world of culturally sanctioned eugenics. In 2009, Ethan Hawke costars alongside Willem Dafoe and Sam Neill in Daybreakers, a dystopic sci-fi horror flick in which vampires farm humans for their blood. There's just one problem: Humans are becoming extinct, the vampires' food supply is running out, and everything's going to shit: "Blood-related crime is on the rise," the TV news warns, and as vampires begin to starve, the more emo among them stay up late to kill themselves by watching the sun rise. And the most emo vampire of them all is Ed Dalton (Hawke), who's constantly muttering things like, "Life's a bitch, and then you don't die."
Ed works for an eeeevil corporation run by an eeeevil businessman (Neill); as a hematologist, Ed's working to develop a blood substitute, presumably because these vampires have seen True Blood and know a goofy idea when they hear one. But then Ed meets Audrey (Claudia Karvan) and Lionel (Dafoe), two humans who're... um... also working to, I don't know, find a cure for vampirism or something? It doesn't really matter: The important thing is that Willem Dafoe carries a giant goddamn crossbow (when you shoot vampires with arrows, they explode like TNT!) and says wise, poetic things like, "Bein' human in a world fulla vampires is about as safe as barebackin' a five-dollar whore."
Daybreakers' fun premise almost gets buried under too much goofy plot, but the Spierig Brothers—who previously wrote and directed the ridiculous 2003 Australian zombie flick Undead—embrace pulp in such a wholehearted way that it's impossible not to have fun watching this thing. Amid all the gleeful gore and cheesy melodrama, there's some genuinely funny and clever stuff here: Vampires taking blood instead of cream in their coffee! Cars with metal-plated windows so vampires can drive during the day! Ludicrous science experiments! A picture of a vampire chimpanzee! Vampires going into the woods to kill themselves with sunlight and accidentally starting forest fires! Vampires turning into giant gross bat-things that live in the subway and sometimes unexpectedly wander into Ethan Hawke's tastefully decorated home! Vampires exploding like TNT when they get shot with crossbow arrows! I know I already mentioned that part, but let's take a moment of silence here to really let it sink in just how cool that is.
There is also a moment in the film where you wonder—just for a tiny second—if this whole thing is a big allegorical indictment of big pharma, or perhaps a damning condemnation of man's refusal to allocate and conserve natural resources. Which, sure, okay, whatever—but if you're gonna insist on getting all thoughtful, just stay home and watch Let the Right One In again, because Daybreakers is a movie about Willem Dafoe being badass and making vampires explode and talking about five-dollar whores.
In summation, Daybreakers is, hands down, the best sci-fi/action/vampire/horror film since Blade II.