Vampires vs. the Bronx (2020)

Vampires vs. the Bronx
Director: Oz Rodriguez
Writer: Oz Rodriguez, Blaise Hemingway
Cast: Jaden Michael, Gerald Jones III, Gregory Diaz IV, Sarah Gadon, Method Man, Shea Whigham, Coco Jones, The Kid Mero, Zoe Saldana
Seen on: 9.4.2021

Content Note: (critical treatment of) racism

Plot:
Miguel (Jaden Michael) loves the Bronx. So he tries to organize a fundraising event for the local bodega run by Tony (The Kid Mero) that is close to shutting down. It’s not just a bodega, it’s also a safe space for Miguel and his best friends Luis (Gregory Diaz IV) and Bobby (Gerald Jones III). Part of the bodega’s problems is the gentrification that is slowly but surely reaching the Bronx, pushed forward by Murnau Real Estate. But Miguel soon realizes that there is more to the company – they aren’t just there for the profit, they actually are vampires. So Miguel gathers Luis and Bobby to fight for the Bronx.

Vampires vs. the Bronx is sweet and fun, but it stumbles a little over its own political metaphors and a little too conventional narrative structure. Still, it is a very entertaining romp.

The film poster showing the four main kids as stylized images. Miguel (Jaden Michael) is at the top, clutching a cross and screaming.

Vampires vs. the Bronx draws parallels between vampires and gentrification and I thought that that’s a brilliant idea: these powerful outsiders take over an area and make its original inhabitants disappear – it really works when you think about it like that. But at the same time, the vampires state that they chose the Bronx because people don’t care if and when Black people disappear (which is unfortunately the bitter truth) – and that is the reason why they want to keep everything the same. Which is absolutely the contrary of what they’re doing as we see hipster shops and restaurants opening all over the Bronx, which would mean attracting white people who aren’t poor and that, in turn, would mean big changes and people caring for disappearances.

Since that entire metaphor is at the heart of the film, it really is a quite big wrench in the narrative that it undermines itself in that way. There could have been ways around it. That being said, there are enough political jokes that continue to work even when this metaphor doesn’t – from the shops that are opening up to everybody assuming that Vivian (Sarah Gadon) is there to complain whenever she shows her white face. Those little (and big) digs are the best part of the film.

Rita (Coco Jones), Miguel (Jaden Michael), Luis (Gregory Diaz IV) and Bobby (Gerald Jones III) looking at something. Miguel is holding a stake.

The kids do a great job and are very likeable. It is a little disappointing, though, that we still have an adventure film in 2020 that focuses entirely on boys, allowing only one girl – Rita (Coco Jones) to join them (later on, and in a smaller capacity, even though she’s the one with all the expert knowledge), and that mostly so that Miguel can have a crush. Was that really necessary? Generally, the gender dynamics here aren’t particularly progressive.

Despite that, I had a good time with the film. It’s fast-paced, has a great cast who get to be very funny, even gets in a couple of serious notes and has a political heart. You can definitely do way worse than spend your time with it.

Miguel (Jaden Michael), Luis (Gregory Diaz IV) and Bobby (Gerald Jones III) looking something up on a computer.

Summarizing: fun.

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