The Austin Chronicle

Blade II

Rated R, 110 min. Directed by Guillermo Del Toro. Starring Wesley Snipes, Kris Kristofferson, Ron Perlman, Norman Reedus, Leonor Varela, Luke Goss, Thomas Kretschmann, Donnie Yen.

REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., March 22, 2002

Blade II delivers the goods better than any new action film released in the last several years. The story is pure comic-book material emphasizing blood and mayhem over character development and plot nuance; nevertheless, the movie is rendered with great intelligence, insight, and visual style. Snipes, who stars (as he did in the original) as the half-man, half-vampire Blade, also serves as one of the sequel's co-producers, and he really brings a lot to the table. His handle on this Marvel Comics creation is so encompassing that his inhabitation of Blade almost seems a pure manifestation of his own imagination. Add to this mix the collaboration of screenwriter David S. Goyer (Dark City, The Crow) and director Guillermo del Toro (The Devil's Backbone, Cronos, Mimic) -- supreme comics devotees both -- and the result is a rush of mad demonic fervor whose relentless zeal and bloody passion obeys no human bounds. From the opening moments of the film's substantial pre-credit sequence, del Toro sets a pace for this monstercade that's off-the-charts and running. Additionally, del Toro's striking visual sensibilities (along with those of production designer Carol Spier) set the tone for this twilight universe populated by terrifying beasties and nasty super-suckers all engaged in a deadly battle between good and evil. Filmed in Prague, the city provides a suitable structural backdrop for the movie's sense of Old World urban decay, and a wealth of creative types skilled in the manufacture of set decor and other film trades. Echoes of other del Toro films can also be seen in this movie's recurrent catacomb-like imagery, underground pools, the elasticity of time, and insect metaphors. Blade II is moodier than the original's hyperkinetic gorefest, and Snipes comes across as more of a conflicted savior than the mack daddy fighter he resembled the first time around. The story throws Blade -- a daywalker sworn to eradicate vampires -- into partnership with his former vampiric enemies in order to fight an even greater evil -- the reapers. Unlike vampires, who need human blood in order to survive, reapers attack both humans and vampires with a rapacious appetite that knows no guilt, remorse, or fear. Blade's partnership with the vampire Bloodpack alliance opens up questions about power and friendship which are constantly reformulated throughout the film, lending it something of a moral center. Is the enemy of my enemy my friend? goes the film's recurring refrain. Despite a couple lapses in logic that can't be ignored as simple comic-book rationality, and a couple other CGI shots that look a bit undercooked, Blade II invades theatres with its fangs bared for action. It's bloody hell and we love every minute.

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