THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan


A few years ago, I nearly walked out of Blade. The opening scene took place at a "rave" where the partiers were showered in blood. The scene was so disgusting that I wanted to bolt for the exit. When a picture freaks you out in the first five minutes, it doesn't leave you feeling optimistic. True to the duties of my job, though, I stayed and in the end I was glad I did. Blade turned out to be an exciting and stylish adaptation of the popular graphic novel about the world's deadliest vampire hunter. Going into Blade 2, I felt a little more prepared for the blood and gore I was certain to see. This time around, I wasn't particularly bothered by the carnage (which is not to say that there isn't plenty of it). The sequel is an even better film than the original, which made the graphic violence more tolerable.

Wesley Snipes kicks ass and takes names as a vampire hunter in Blade 2
Wesley Snipes returns as Blade, the vampire hunter who ironically has a bit of vampire within himself. Early on, Blade is approached by the "Vampire Counsel" who want his help destroying a new mutant strain of vampire. Known as Reapers, this new strain feasts on humans and other vampires alike, making them dangerous to everybody. After rescuing his mentor Whistler (Kris Kristofferson) whom he had presumed dead, Blade agrees to lead a group of vampires called the Bloodpack on a mission to find and stop the Reapers. There's one hitch: the Bloodpack is a highly trained team of mercenaries originally formed to kill Blade himself. Almost immediately, he clashes with Reinhardt (Ron Perlman), the biggest, baddest member of the Bloodpack.

From the premise, Blade 2 sounds like a threadbare setup for a series of bloody action sequences. Interestingly, the movie is more than that. Screenwriter David Goyer (who penned the original, along with my favorite sci-fi movie Dark City) stays true to the kind of themes that are common in graphic novels: loyalty, bravery, and the impact of one decent hero in a world that has grown morally ambiguous. The plot about the spreading mutation also has parallels to real-world things like the increasingly brutal crimes we hear about too often in the news. This is a horror movie with half a brain.

The script is backed up by fast-paced direction from Guillermo del Toro, who also helmed the atmospheric Mimic. Although his pictures are often graphic, del Toro is interested in more than spreading blood and guts. He brings a carefully crafted style to Blade 2 that elevates it beyond most other films of its kind. Using amazing special effects technology, the director keeps cranking up the intensity of the action. He shocks and surprises you in the way he approaches scenes. Horror movies tend to have a certain rhythm; you can feel when something is about to happen, how it is going to happen, etc. This movie tinkers with that rhythm, putting in little twists of action or horror in places where you don't expect them.

Perhaps the best example is the way del Toro introduces the Reapers. The first one we see is Jared Nomak (Luke Goss), also known as "Patient Zero." We don't realize what he is until a small slit appears on his chin. Suddenly, that slit rips apart, revealing a giant mouth spread apart like an eagle's wings. Right in the middle of the mouth is a razored tongue that latches onto victims and sucks their life out. Rather than going for shock effect, del Toro lingers on the idea of evil lurking beneath the surface, then attacking its prey. It's a more unnerving approach than if he had just tossed buckets of blood at the camera.

It is also worth mentioning that Wesley Snipes has found a well-suited character to play. The actor is himself a martial arts master and he clearly does his own fighting in the film. Because Snipes is also a good actor, Blade feels like more than a one-dimensional comic book hero; we can see glimpses of his inner demons under the surface.

Blade 2 moves like a bullet, maintaining its energy throughout. It constantly reinvents the action scenes to make each one more thrilling than the one before. In between all the excitement, the film also contains the year's best line of dialogue: Blade comments that another character is human, only to have that character reply: "Barely. I'm a lawyer."

( out of four)

Blade 2 is rated R for strong pervasive violence, language, some drug use and sexual content. The running time is 1 hours and 54 minutes.

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