The Bleeding / The Killing Jar

But seriously: I hate to knock the guy for his current financial problems, so I understand his need to take any and every role that comes his way. (According to IMDb, he has 30 films slated for release this year.) It’s just that all too often — cough “The Brazen Bull” cough — the movies aren’t up to his magnetic level of talent. Lucky for him and us, his two latest projects to hit DVD — at least at this hour — are better than most of the DTV efforts in which he wallows between Quentin Tarantino films.

In the vampire thriller “The Bleeding,” Madsen’s a wayward preacher partial to peach jam, “Wheel of Fortune” and yelling. He informs bald, brawny combat vet Shawn Black (Michael Matthias) that his brother, Cain (Vinnie Jones), is the king of the vampires, and that said vampires are responsible for slaughtering Shawn’s family, and that Shawn is the only one who can kill Cain, being blood relations and all.

Shawn has about three days to destroy the vampire army before they destroy mankind, so he heads to Club Mortem (!) to do just that. As expected from a vanity project (Matthias produced), the focus isn’t on lucidity, but making Shawn out to be an action hero, in what is a brainless, but nonetheless entertaining mix of “Blade” and “The Fast and the Furious,” directed by ’80s TV vet Charles Picerni (“Hunter,” “Vega$,” “Matt Houston,” “T.J. Hooker,” ad nauseum).

It’s as good as you could expect a vampire movie with DMX, Kat Von D and a pilgrim wig for Jones could be, and maybe even a little better. Just about the time you’re ready to share Shawn’s sentiment of “I’ve had enough of this madness,” the movie’s over.

Madsen has a larger role in “The Killing Jar.” Set entirely inside a roadside diner late at night, it could be a play. It’s also more serious than its tagline of “Eeny, meeny, miny, murder” would lead you to believe.

With Noreen (Amber Benson) serving as the waitress, the regulars are aghast at news of a series of execution-style murders in the nearby town. And then big ol’ scary Madsen walks through the door and looks like he wants to start some shit. He does.

It does no good to discuss the plot further without spoiling it, even if one tiptoes around ever so delicately, so I won’t. Needless to say, the mood inside the diner grows bleaker with every passing minute. It’s just tense enough to keep you interested, but without approaching the threat of perspiration.

Written and directed by Mark Young (whose “Southern Gothic” was lacking), “Jar” reminded me of an episode of “Alfred Hitchcock Presents,” but with fairly graphic violence. It’s a good showcase for Madsen, and an even better one for Jake Busey — no, really — who has a small role, but nails it, proving himself a better actor than his father ever was.

But back to Madsen: Hey, Mike, is your sister Virginia available? Call me. —Rod Lott

Rod Lott

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