Blade II (United States, 2002)

A movie review by James Berardinelli

Those regarding Blade II as a travelogue will not be planning their next vacation to Prague, where the bulk of the motion picture takes place. (Economic considerations caused it to be filmed there.) The Eastern European city is portrayed as a shadowy hellhole that's crawling with vampires. Like the recent Queen of the Damned, Blade II postulates that today's society is in part populated by the creatures of the night. They're everywhere. In fact, the ratio of the undead to the living in Prague appears to be ridiculously high.

As the Roman numeral indicates, Blade II is the sequel to the 1998 would-be first-in-a-franchise outing, Blade. The film stays true to its unpretentious origins - it's like a comic book come to life, with an undeniable visual flair, a lot of kinetic action sequences, minimal character development, and a plot that could charitably be called "uneven". In actuality, significant chunks of the movie don't make a lot of sense, but logic was plainly not a top priority on the filmmakers' agenda.

Blade II takes place two years after the original Blade, and opens with the title character, half-vampire/half-human vampire killer Blade (Wesley Snipes), looking for his partner, Whistler (Kris Kristofferson), who is in the clutches of the dastardly undead. Supposedly, Whistler died in the first movie, but the lack of a body gave writer David S. Goyer some wiggle room. In the time since Whistler's capture, Blade has gained a new assistant, Scud (Norman Reedus), who's just along for the ride. Shortly after rescuing Whistler, Blade receives two visitors - Nyssa (Leonor Varela) and Asad (Dannny John Jules), envoys from the vampire king Damaskinos (Thomas Kretschmann), who is seeking a temporary alliance. It seems that a new breed of rogue vampires, called the Reapers, is terrorizing both the human and vampire communities. While these ghoulish creatures are allergic to light, they are not affected by silver bullets or garlic, and they possess an appetite that makes the traditional vampires seem anorexic by comparison. Damaskinos would like Blade to take command of a unique squad of crack vampire warriors - the Bloodpack - and lead them against the Reapers and their first-born, Nomak (Luke Goss). Thus is born an unholy alliance.

Blade II is essentially a series of stylish, violent battles between Blade and his various enemies. The flavor of the conflicts is heavily influenced by the martial arts genre, but it's a more in-your-face, less elegant form of combat than the one offered by Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Director Guillermo Del Toro (whose previous south-of-the-border vampire tale, Cronos, put him on the international map) steeps everything in darkness and gothic imagery. Blade II may be seriously lacking in the substance arena, but it's never boring. Those in search of a film that offers wall-to-wall samplings of gory, kick-ass action will find it here. Those looking for something creepy or frightening are encouraged to look elsewhere. And thinking is not welcome - you can check your brain at the theater door. Why, for example, do the members of the Bloodpack fail to use the UV flashlights on their guns to kill the Reapers (who dissolve in a puff of CGI dust when exposed to such illumination), and instead persist in firing away at them with conventional bullets? Not because it makes sense, but because it extends the decibel range and the running length.

As Blade, Wesley Snipes radiates even more attitude than he did in the previous outing. This man is cooler than cool, has more gadgets than James Bond and Batman combined, and could outduel Jackie Chan and Jet Li with one hand tied behind his back. Unlike Superman, he's not allergic to Kryptonite, and a quick bath in blood will revive him more fully than a night's sleep and a back rub. Snipes is perfect for the role and knows how to play the character without taking things too seriously or turning the production into an overly campy affair. Meanwhile, Kris Kristofferson has the thankless job of portraying Blade's sidekick, which means he spends most of the film in Snipes' shadow. Relative unknown Leonor Varela is sultry and sexy in a leather-outfitted, b&d sort of way. And reliable Ron Perlman (who previously appeared in Del Toro's Cronos and spent a lot of time hunting nasty creatures in dark places in Alien: Resurrection) plays Reinhardt, the captain of the Bloodpack.

Like Aliens (and the numerous films that inspired it), Blade II is about an antagonistic group of grunts (the vampire Dirty Dozen) thrown into dark, enclosed spaces to fight an enemy against which they are undermanned. Plus, there's a double-cross involved (the reason for which, when it is revealed, makes no more sense than the rest of the film). Blade II is for those undiscriminating movie-goers who want nothing more from a trip to the multiplex than loud, raucous, mindless entertainment.

Blade II (United States, 2002)

Run Time: 1:54
U.S. Release Date: 2002-03-22
MPAA Rating: "R" (Violence, Profanity)
Subtitles: none
Theatrical Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1