Blade 2

Filled with gratuitous gore and rivers of blood, “Blade 2” devours the screen with a ferocious appetite. You can’t make a good vampire film without spilling a lot of the red stuff. As anyone who has ever ridden the elevator at the Overlook Hotel can confirm, you can’t get from here to there without getting soaked.

Unlike the more recent and anemic “Queen of the Damned,” “Blade 2” not only gets it right, but actually improve upon the original. Based on the Marvel Comic about a half-human, half-vampire hero, “Blade 2” benefits from a change of director and location, giving the franchise a fresh, gothic look.

Wesley Snipes returns as Blade, now hunting vampires in Prague. Even though his loyal, trustworthy sidekick Whistler was killed by the vampires in the first film, he’s back through the marvels of movie magic. Horror films are notorious for playing loose with the rules, so when a popular character dies, never say never.

Kris Kristofferson was so engaging as Whistler it only makes sense to bring him back. Sidekicks are a dime a dozen, but a sidekick who harbors a personal vendetta (the vampires killed his wife and kid) and is a wiz at developing really cool anti-vampire weapons is a real asset. Also on board is Scud (Norman Reedus), the new kid on the block and Blade’s current partner and inventor.

When Whistler returns to the fold, there’s a noticeable degree of tension between him and Scud, but their differences are quickly put to rest when they come face to face with a new enemy: Reapers. They’re a different breed of vampire, with menacing jaws that open wide (the better to eat you with) and a bone casing around the heart that makes impaling them next to impossible.

Since Reapers are intent on wiping out both humans and vampires, Blade (nicknamed Daywalker due to a serum that allows him to go out in the sun) must reluctantly team up with his enemies to stop them. Writer David S. Goyer (Blade, Dark City), uses this alliance to set up several dilemmas. Blade can’t stop the Reapers without the help of the vampires, which are his sworn enemy.

If they collectively stop the Reapers, what’s to stop the vampires from turning on Blade. That’s half the fun of “Blade 2,” which takes us deeper into the soul of Snipes’ character. The first film was a great set-up, allowing “Blade 2” to jump right into action. Directed with assured glee by Guillermo Del Toro (Mimic, Cronos), “Blade 2” is dark, giddy fun. The actors approach the material with total conviction. There’s no winking at the camera, nothing to suggest that were not supposed to take any of this seriously.

There’s maturity in Snipes’ performance. He’s older, wiser, more in tune with who is he and what he has to do. Blade already suffers from an unwelcome duality, but when he’s forced to step over the line and help those he has sworn to kill, the anguish comes vividly to life through the actor’s powerful portrayal.

Leonor Varela is both lovely and deadly as Nyssa, the daughter of the Vampire Overlord who has been sent with the Bloodpack to help Blade defeat the Reapers. Blade’s attraction to Nyssa creates even more conflict when he begins to fall for her charms. Ron Perlman is appropriately brutal as Reinhardt, the leader of the Bloodpack.

Goyer (“Dark City”) understands the benefits of less-is-more. Let the characters and their actions tell the story and avoid those embarrassing expository passages that in this case might sound really silly.

“Blade 2” feels at home in Prague, where old world charm gets a blood transfusion by director Del Toro and writer Goyer. The setting is the perfect staging ground for a modern day battle between the ultimate vampire (Luke Goss) and the ultimate vampire hunter.

“Blade 2” is awash in gore. At times it feels like a check-list on how to kill a vampire, with every item crossed off twice. Bigger and better vampires mean bigger and better ways to kill them. Wear a raincoat. Special and visual effects allow Snipes and company to engage in some amazing fight sequences which are actually breathtaking.

With just the right dose of black comedy and enough action and horror to fill two movies, “Blade 2” arrives as a perfect package for fans willing to bite.


Sequel to “Blade” cuts close to the bone


Wesley Snipes, Kris Kristofferson, Norman Reedus, Leonor Varela, Luke Goss, Ron Perlman, Matt Schulze. Directed by Guillermo Del Toro. Rated R.


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