Rated R - Running time: 2:00 - Released 8/21/98

If one didn't know it was based on a comic strip, Blade would be up there with the most terrible action movies ever made. But it doesn't expect to be taken seriously; it's a melodrama. The problem is, a few of the actors didn't realize that, like Stephen Dorff and Kris Kristofferson. Wesley Snipes did. But it's too bad director Stephen Norrington didn't enlighten the others.

Blade (Snipes) is sort of like Batman. He's a superhero, with a black cape (well, a leather dress coat) who fights against vampires with cool toys like solid silver stakes he shoots out of a modified rocket launcher. He's part vampire, too, because his mother was bitten by one while she was carrying him, so he is endowed with the superhuman strength all the vamps enjoy. To satisfy his thirst for blood without becoming the thing he hates, he gets regular injections of a special serum formulated by his best friend, Abraham Whistler (Kristofferson), who also makes all the cool hardware. But Blade is developing a tolerance for the stuff, and his dosage is reaching a dangerous level. He must either kick the habit (and lose all his power) or figure out another way to hunt Deacon Frost (Dorff), the evil guy who gave his mom the two permanent valves in her jugular.

Frost is not respected by the elite panel of vampires headed by Dragonetti (Udo Kier), because he is not "full-blooded." That is to say, he was not born a vampire — he was bitten. In the vampire world, those types are the equivalent of white trash. Really white. But Frost is planning a little show that will end all the prejudice against half-breeds like himself. With the aid of Blade's special blood he will summon the unnamed god of evil who will come down (or maybe up) and terrorize all those pompous bloodsuckers. And all vamps will be equal. And Frost will be king. Or something like that. But first he has to catch Blade.

During a routine vampicidal spree, Blade meets up with a woman who was bitten but hasn't turned yet. And she didn't die. How inconvenient. Her name is Karen (N'Bushe Wright), and he brings her back to his and Whistler's pad, not knowing what else to do. But she turns out to be a hematologist, so she might be of some help with his little blood problem. That is, if she doesn' t grow pointy teeth first.

So, to sum up: Blade is hunting Frost. Frost is hunting Blade. Blade is in need of a better serum. Karen can help him, but she might turn into a vampire first, in which case he would have to kill her. But she's very attractive, so he would really rather marry her and make little half-vampires.

This movie is quite bloody, but the blood is not treated as a life fluid so much as a tasty drink. In fact, the artificial blood used in production looks very tasty, like raspberry jelly or something. The acting is overblown, the special effects are impressive, and the violence is loud and often. Just like in a comic strip. Is it worth the admission price? Wellllll . . . . ***½

Copyright 1998 by John R. McEwen and The Republican

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