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‘Vampire in Brooklyn’ (R)

By Desson Howe
Washington Post Staff Writer
October 27, 1995

Eddie Murphy plays it straight rather than bawdy in "A Vampire in Brooklyn." It takes some getting used to. As if to make up for all this seriousness, he plays a few funny characters in disguise, including a long-haired Italian punk and an Al-Sharpton-styled preacher. But despite his omnipresence, he seems comically missing.

As Maximillian, the last of all vampires, he's an elegant, long-haired gentleman with a Caribbean accent who has journeyed to the Big Apple in search of Rita Veder (Angela Bassett), a New York police officer.

It seems Rita's long-departed parents—as she later discovers—used to, uh, work nights with Maximillian. Rita, the daughter of vampires, is just the partner Max is looking for. But she's not willing to accept her apparent fate, or part with her secret love, partner Justice (Allen Payne).

A rather unremarkable vampire-meets-crime-thriller ensues, in which Maximillian (disguising his real identity) attempts to seduce Rita, while romantically tight-lipped Justice (investigating the trail of bodies that Max has left) tries to keep his jealousy in check.

This triangular struggle leaves most of the funny stuff to Silas (John Witherspoon), as a crusty night watchman with pithy profanities; and his pal Julius Jones (Kadeem Hardison), a small-time hustler who Maximillian recruits as his ghoul and manservant.

Unfortunately, after a small dose of Maximillian's blood on his tongue (part of the vampire recruitment process) Jones begins to physically deteriorate. First his ear falls off, then his hand. But, as he insists to Silas, he's in good hands with his new master.

"Oh he's taking care of you?" says Silas. "Have you seen yourself lately?"

Considering it was directed by "Elm Street" creator Wes Craven, "Vampire" isn't stunningly scary, or particularly atmospheric. There are one or two exceptions, such as the opening sequence in which Maximillian's ghostly ship, filled with dead passengers, crashes its way through a harbor full of boats. The movie's pleasures are fairly minor. It's intriguing to watch Bassett, who has an appealing presence and sculpted features to die for. It's also interesting to see Murphy apparently playing Herb (of Peaches and Herb) with fangs. But this modern fable is little more than a Murphy potboiler, something to while away a couple of hours, rather than fondly remember.

A VAMPIRE IN BROOKLYN (R) — Contains sexual situations, considerable profanity and violence.

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