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BLADE 2 (2002)

Directed by Guillermo Del Toro

Starring Wesley Snipes and Kris Kristofferson

A long four years after the landmark, original "Blade," the sequel finally made its way to theaters, under the direction of Guillermo Del Toro, a horror filmmaker best known for such "sentimental" foreign fear films as "The Devil's Backbone" and "Cronos." He kind of flopped with the mainstream Hollywood thriller "Mimic," but really came back with a vengeance with this sequel.

Although not as solid as the original "Blade," which had a better villain and somehow a warmer and more cohesive feel to it, "Blade 2" is nonetheless a major triumph, combining martial arts, horror, and comic books into a film that doesn't let up for a second. Picking up a few years after the events of the original, Half human/half vampire/all superhero Blade goes on a search for his mentor, Whisper (Kristofferson) who was turned into a vampire in the first film, and somehow survived his own suicide. After dispatching about 20 vampires using his silver-tipped weapons, he finally finds his father figure and is able to somehow transform him back into a human being.

Not soon thereafter, the two are visited by a team of ninja-vampires wearing uniforms that protect them from sunlight. The two vamps inform them that the Vampire Nation wants to make peace with the vampire-hunting Blade (known in their circles as the "Daywalker," because he has all the strength of a vampire, but can walk in the daytime) so that they can join forces against a new breed of blood sucker that has just emerged: A bizarre form of vampire that sucks on the blood of other vamps and can't be stopped by silver. Suspicious at first, the Daywalker decides to go along.

The rest of the film is an action ride that outdoes the original in terms of pace and bloodshed, but doesn't have the character development or a charismatic villain. Stephen Dorff was wonderful as the narcissistic baddie in the first film. No one here shines nearly as much not even Ron Perlman, as the member of the "Bloodpack," the group of Ninja-like vampires that Blade teams up with to do battle with the new bloodsucker strain (dubbed the "Reapers," pretty clever). Many of the other vampires Blade teams up with have tattoos and cool names like "Priest."

The essential ingredient in any Blade film, of course, is supreme coolness, and "Blade 2" has plenty of it. But nothing matches the coolnesss of the first film's opening, when Blade takes out a disco of vampires. Some of the characterizations seem a little flat as well. Even Kristofferson's character isn't all there in this one. The sentimental touches that usually embellish Del Toro's movies aren't evident until the very, very end.

But, all in all, "Blade 2" is a magnificent sequel, loaded with CGI bloodshed, martial arts and electronic music. The universe that scriptwriter David Goyer has dreamt up where vampires have their own government and even their own gigantic corporate headquarters, replete with helicopters and armed guards is pretty fucking excellent. Hopefully "Blade 3" is on a very fast track.

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