Rated R - Running Time: 1:54 - Released 3/22/02

From Mexican director Guillermo del Toro comes Blade II, the marginally bearable sequel to Stephen Norrington's marginally bearable 1998 film Blade. It again stars Wesley Snipes as the titular vampire half-breed superhero who has sworn himself to ridding the world of bloodthirsty modern-day Count Dracula wannabes, even though he is almost one himself. He's a cool, black-leather-wearing, silver-bullet-shooting baaaaad dude (kinda like Shaft, but with pointed teeth) who has lots of nifty equipment to fight those ever-persistent bloodsuckers, and who must inject a special serum every day to keep his own bloodlust down. In this story, however, written by David S. Goyer (based on the comic book character created by Marv Wolfman and Gene Colan), Blade must join forces with his vampire enemies against a common foe: the reapers. Reapers are the next step up on the proud ladder of vampirehood; they are white-skinned, waxy-looking supervamps with piercing eyes, horizontally hinging mandibles, and multi-forked tongues, who feed voraciously on regular vampires, thus turning them into reapers, too.

At the beginning of the film, these nasties-of-all-nasties have been so merciless in their attacks, they've forced the officials from the Vampire Nation, which is apparently some sort of governing body run by overlord Damaskinos (Thomas Kretschmann), to ask Blade for help. Two members of the Nation, Asad (Danny John-Jules) and sexy vamp Nyssa (Leonor Varela), who belong to the elite reaper-fighting team known as the "Blood Pack," arrive and explain the situation. It seems the reapers are led by Nomak (Luke Goss), a relentlessly violent type who plans to populate the entire planet with his kind, thus eventually gaining complete world dominance in the highly lucrative sucking industry. Blade's got other problems, though. His inventor pal Whistler (Kris Kristofferson) has been bitten and is now a blood addict himself, which puts his loyalty in question, and he and his replacement, "Scud" (Norman Reedus), share a mutual animosity that threatens to upset our hero's whole operation. Despite these personnel management issues, Blade agrees to an uneasy partnership with the Blood Pack (mainly because he would like to share some neck-biting time with Nyssa), so while Whistler and Scud bicker over things like what wattage U.V. lamp to use in the super-powered vampire-killing silver-stake-shooting high-powered rifles, Blade and the others go to infiltrate the reapers' hideout and take their leader down.

This is one of those movies whose overly complex plot hinders its ability to come off as even remotely credible. The idea of the superhero joining forces with his sworn enemies is all right as a premise (it's been done a million times), but Goyer's story includes so many double-and triple-crossings its hard to remember who's with whom. But director del Toro's style is visually distinctive, and Snipes's performance is, as before, intentionally melodramatic, stoic and monosyllabic almost to the point of unintentional humor. Indeed the film works much better as a tongue-in-cheek comedy than a thriller, but I doubt del Toro intended that. It's got some cool effects, of course, which help blind the viewer to the story's high level of logical discrepancies.

If nothing else, Blade II follows its predecessor properly as an antiheroic folk tale and a veritable cornucopia of high-end effects and first-class stupidity. I have little doubt we'll see Snipes again in Blade 3; I just hope I'm napping in my coffin when it comes out. ***

Copyright 2002 by John R. McEwen and The Republican

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