Netflix's "Night Teeth" plays like a mishmash of other movies, but it could be the gateway by which younger genre fans cut their teeth.
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Playing like a mishmash of the early Ethan Hawke vehicle “Mystery Date,” Michael Mann’s “Collateral” and the Wesley Snipes “Blade” pictures with the stylistic flourishes of the “John Wick” franchise, “Night Teeth” (now streaming on Netflix) is a frothy blast of vampiric fun.
Benny (Jorge Lendeborg Jr.) is a college student who still lives with his Abuela (Marlene Forte) in the Boyle Heights neighborhood of Los Angeles. Benny’s big on the hustle whether it’s selling papers to his classmates or laying down beats in his bedroom. Looking to diversify his cash flow, Benny jumps at the chance to fill in as a chauffeur for his older brother Jay (Raúl Castillo, who’s having a big year with appearances in “Wrath of Man” and “Army of the Dead” earlier in 2021). Benny’s first fares are Blaire (Debby Ryan) and Zoe (Lucy Fry) whom he picks up in Beverly Hills while assuming Jay’s name.
Unbeknownst to Benny, he’s filling in for Jay because his brother is busy with responsibilities relating to being a member of the Night Legion, a multigenerational squadron of crossbow-brandishing bloodsucker hunters. Jay’s got a particular axe to grind with these suckheads as vampiric Victor (“Game of Thrones” vet Alfie Allen) has kidnapped his girlfriend Maria (Ash Santos). Victor’s actions have broken a 100-year truce between the Night Legion and LA’s vamps – they’re only supposed to feed on the willing, not let humans know of their existence and stay the hell out of Boyle Heights – and they’re only the tip of the iceberg.
Turns out Blaire and Zoe are also vampires and the parties Benny’s taking them to are target-rich environments in which they can oust Victor’s opposition with explicit instructions to kill Jay AKA Benny by night’s end. Hot young Hollywood fixtures such as Megan Fox, Sydney Sweeney and Alexander Ludwig pop up in bit parts as fellow bloodsuckers on Victor’s shit list.
The direction of Adam Randall (who previously helmed the 2019 Helen Hunt horror effort “I See You”) and cinematography by Eben Bolter (who’s lensing an episode of HBO’s “The Last of Us” series) is slick, but a little too ostentatious for my liking at times. The screenplay by first-timer Brent Dillon is a clever teen-skewing twist on “Collateral” (with Lendeborg filling in for Jamie Foxx and Ryan and especially Fry filling in for Tom Cruise). The script’s scope is somewhat limited, but seems to hint at a bigger canvas in future installments.
The primary cast is what makes this thing sing. Lendeborg is an appealing young actor whose work I’ve enjoyed in the past (he was especially good in “Love, Simon” and “Bumblebee”) and he’s particularly likable here. Ryan is lovely and charming. Fry is lovely and alarming. Allen comes across like a cross of his character from “John Wick” and a lamer version of Stephen Dorff’s Deacon Frost from “Blade.” The chemistry between Lendeborg and Ryan adds considerable charm to the proceedings in which Blaire must choose between her maker and her make out partner.
I was surprised to find out “Night Teeth” is rated TV-14 (equivalent to a PG-13) as it features the line, “You wouldn’t know a party if it fucked you in the face,” and there are instances of blood splatter graphically splashing across windows. In hindsight however the movie is a rather antiseptic exercise in vampire horror/action. It could prove to be a solid gateway for younger viewers to cut their teeth in regards to genre entertainment.