Along the way, and with the encouragement of his support group (led by an appealing Brandon Scott Jones with spot-on timing), Renfield realizes that a different life is possible for him—a happy one of his own. Hilarious details abound in production and costume design as Renfield seeks a cheerier, more colorful persona, far from the Gothic aesthetic that’s defined him for the past century.
But then he gets sucked into a boring subplot involving Awkwafina as the lone cop in New Orleans who’s not corrupt. Her character, Rebecca, is seeking answers and revenge for the death of her father, a legendary police officer. That’s pretty much all there is to her character; Camille Chen, as her FBI agent sister, gets even less to do. Awkwafina has an exasperated, no-nonsense delivery that’s amusing, and she and Hoult have a spiky chemistry—so much so that you’ll wish her involvement were more interesting. Similarly, Ben Schwartz gets to be obnoxious, and that’s about it as the striving, drug-dealing son of a cartel boss (Shohreh Aghdashloo in a paper-thin role and an array of fabulous power suits).
With this cast and this concept, there is a ton of potential here. The knowing, meta-exploration of Dracula lore is often quite clever. And “Renfield” can be extremely entertaining in sporadic bursts. But examining it in the sun’s harsh light causes it to shrivel to dust.
Now playing in theaters.