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Blade II Print E-mail
Tuesday, 03 September 2002

Blade II

New Line Home Entertainment
MPAA rating: R
starring: Wesley Snipes, Kris Kristofferson, Ron Perlman, Leonor Varela, Norman Reedus, Luke Goss
release year: 2002
film rating: Three-and-a-Half Stars
sound/picture: Four Stars
reviewed by: Abbie Bernstein

Apart (kind of) from its surly hero and his surlier mentor, “Blade II” is in the best tradition of a particular kind of action movie – the bad guys vs. the worse guys. Imagine “The Wild Bunch” with vampires – which won’t give you the faintest idea of what “Blade II” looks like, but you may get a sense of how it feels.

The original 1996 film “Blade” was based on a Marvel comic book about the eponymous anti-hero, half-vampire and half-human, and completely filled with loathing for bloodsuckers. Wesley Snipes’ considerable martial arts skills made him a good choice to play Blade, who has made a life’s work of hunting the undead, battling them with his fists innate supernatural strength (from his vamp half), much-studied fighting skills, a very sharp sword and anything that makes for a satisfying explosion.

“Blade I” had a kickass opening sequence in a disco that showered blood all over the dance floor as prelude to a mass vampire attack that was countered by our hero. Following this, though, Blade’s relentless grumpiness and the undead-serious plot about political control within the vampire world made for a movie that had nifty special effects, great action and a lot of dead (or maybe undead) patches.

“Blade II” is considerably more enjoyable. For starters, while Snipes’ Blade still can’t be described as cheerful, now that he’s resolved some issues (as seen in the earlier film), he is now capable of cracking a joke and/or a smile occasionally. Screenwriter David S. Goyer, who also penned the first film, brings us back to the world of internal strife within the vampire world, but this time, the dispute is played out much more through action than dialogue. Yes, the villain does have one of those plans that seems designed to self-destruct once we know what it is, but by the time this critical revelation transpires, Goyer and director Guillermo Del Toro have provided so much kinetic movement and madly wonderful horror imagery that we’re having a great time anyway.

The Vampire Nation, normally Blade’s worst enemies, surprise the Daywalker by coming to him for help. It seems a new strain of vampire, the Reaper, has evolved. These creatures attack both humans and vampires, and if the primary carrier, Nomak (Luke Goss), is not destroyed, the entire world will be infected and turned within about a month. Blade warily agrees to ally himself with the Blood Pack, a group of vampire super-commandoes that, before the rise of the Reapers, had been preparing to go up against Blade. This team goes into battle against the Reapers, which move and kill with as much agility and inventive gore as Del Toro and the effects team can provide.

“Blade II” is punctuated with little breather spaces in the action that allow for face-offs between Blade, his human crew (Kris Kristofferson and Norman Reedus) and the Blood Pack. Ron Perlman as erstwhile Pack leader Rheinhardt is particularly good, exuding the perfect arrogant, efficient attitude for a blood-eating mercenary. Del Toro and his editing team somehow make it feel as if there are no pauses – the movie pumps on adrenaline, with kicking, biting, shooting, detonating (and a few otherworldly autopsies) at every turn.

The DVD two-disc set has an impressive array of extras. The second disc has an 85-minute (not counting branching segments) making-of documentary, “The Blood Pact,” complete with 5.1 sound, and branching segments – that, in a stroke of courtesy, can be accessed separately from the menu by viewers who don’t want to have to watch it with trigger finger on the remote, waiting for the glyph to show up. The documentary is thorough and informative, with lots of great on-set footage, but for the really fun version of making the movie, check out the center-channel audio commentary track by director Del Toro and producer Peter Frankfurt. After introducing himself and Frankfurt, Del Toro explains the commentary thusly: “We’re here to entertain you while you find out why the fuck this channel has these two assholes talking instead of the movie.” They are thereafter fearless in pointing out what they perceive of as flaws – “Looks like a video game!” Del Toro laughs about a fight in Chapter 5 (it really doesn’t) – and forthrightly generous with praise where they feel it is warranted. Forget Blade – these are the guys you really want to party with. Del Toro and Frankfurt are even more trenchant in their (optional) joint commentary on the approximately 24 minutes of alternate/deleted scenes. Definitely stay tuned for the explanation of why one scene had to be altered due to overly realistic art direction (for once, nothing to do with gore).

The feature disc also comes with a center-channel audio commentary track from actor Snipes and screenwriter Goyer, which in agreeable and informative, albeit a lot tamer by comparison. Goyer interviews Snipes a bit about his martial arts background, which is intriguing. Additional features on the supplemental disc include a two-channel sound music video, “Child of the Wild West,” from Cypress Hill and Roni Size, which marries lively rap with an oddly amusing through-line about surveillance vans tracking what seems to be an outbreak of people listening to music on headphones.

The filmmakers deserve kudos for setting the story in the place where it was filmed – Prague – and letting the characters occasionally speak the local language in subtitles, instead of trying to dress the place up as some improbably anonymous U.S. city and insisting that everybody speaks English at all times. The filmmakers are smart enough to save suspension of disbelief for more important things.

“Blade II” provides a lot of wow-look-at-that thrills and has an express-train pace to go with its ferocious visuals. It doesn’t engage us emotionally as much as it might, but it’s still a hell of a lot of fun.

more details
sound format:
English DTS 6.1 Surround; English Dolby EX 5.1 Surround; English 2.0 Surround
aspect ratio(s):
special features: Audio Commentary by Director Guillermo Del Toro and Producer Peter Frankfurt; Audio Commentary by Actor Wesley Snipes and Screenwriter David Goyer; 5.1 Isolated Music Score Track; 83-Minute Making-Of Documentary; Deleted and Alternate Scenes with Optional Director/Producer Commentary; Director’s Notebook Interactive Notes with Director Introduction; Stills Gallery; Cypress Hill and Roni Size “Child of the Wild West” Music Video; “Blade II” Video Game Preview/Tips; Theatrical Trailers; English Subtitles and Closed-Captioning; DVD-ROM Features
comments: email us here...
reference system
DVD player: Kenwood DV-403
receiver: Kenwood VR-407
main speakers: Paradigm Atom
center speaker: Paradigm CC-170
rear speakers: Paradigm ADP-70
subwoofer: Paradigm PDR-10
monitor: 27-inch Toshiba

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