Film Review - Blade II

Starring - Wesley Snipes, Kris Kristofferson, Ron Perlman, Leonor Varela | Directed by Guillermo Del Toro | New Line DVD WS R 117 min 2002

Review By Eric Shonborn

Blade, the vampire killer, is forced to team up with a team of vampires - assassins who have been trained to fight and kill Blade - in order to track down a deadly new threat. A new breed of vampire has evolved, The Reapers, a savage and brutal kind of creature that feeds on the blood of other vampires. As the Reaper population grows and the vampires fall prey, Blade and The Bloodpack hunt down the Reaper's leader to stop this new threat at any cost before they turn to the human race to feed.

Let me get this mini-tantrum off my chest. I saw Blade II on opening night when it was released in 2002. I was incredibly excited to see it and my girlfriend and I had a rare Friday night off together. It was the viewing of this movie that began my hatred for going out to the theater to see a film. It was the very first time I encountered jackasses with cell-phones, texting and taking phones call throughout the movie. Every few minutes, tiny, bright, annoying lights would pop up in various places around the theater. Since then, much like the Reaper virus in the film, this epidemic has grown and spread like a cancer of stupid. If you're reading this and you have ever taken a phone call in a movie theater, or a text message or even looked at the time, suck a muffler and be rid of yourself. I pay money to watch movies, not to watch or listen to you. I hope you all get savagely beaten.

That said, holy balls, Blade II is an amazing film. Everything about it is an improvement over the first movie, taking that film's strengths and running with 'em, and having very few flaws (there are some, though). What boosts this film over the first is the simple fact that it works perfectly as a horror movie and as an action movie. Part I emphasized the action and bombastic nature of it's story, and while, at it's heart, was a horror movie and tense in places, it was not pushed as far as it could go. This is helped by the introduction of The Reapers into the Blade mythology. Vampires, as a whole, have lost a lot of scary luster, but The Reapers are creepy, horrific beasts that swarm and feed like cockroach zombies with a unique and terrifying look and design. There is a pretty intense scene in the middle of the film in which The Reapers attack in a feeding frenzy that George Romero in his prime would express jealousy. As a guy in his 30s who has watched far too many horror movies, for that scene to still, even after multiple viewings, make me shudder is a testament to the excellent work done by the cast and crew.

The cast is pretty astounding. Snipes and Kristofferson return and maintain the performances they gave from Blade I, but the new additions are fantastic, particularly Luke Goss, who plays the lead Reaper, Jared Nomak. Goss (Hellboy II) is primarily known as a musician, but has made quite a career for himself in the past decade as an actor, and he does a great job as the mad, bloodthirsty Nomak in an early role. Danny John-Jules is surprising in his small role as Asad, one of the Bloodpack, particularly as I've only ever seen him as Cat from Red Dwarf, a fairly silly (but memorable) character. The true standout though is Ron Perlman as Reinhardt, the leader of the Bloodpack. Perlman is pretty much amazing in everything he does. He's such a distinct and charming actor that even when playing a complete scumbag like his character here, you can't help but like him. He made such an impression, it was his role in Blade II that that guaranteed him as the lead in the Hellboy movies. While Blade II lacks much of the humor that Blade I had, most of the comedy that does exist comes from Perlman's Reinhardt in black, dark doses.

Of course, all of this can truly only be credited to the director, Guillermo Del Toro. While he is not credited as the writer (David Goyer returns as the screenwriter), his fingerprints are all over Blade II as if it were his own. Blade II was only his fourth major film, and his second studio "Hollywood" movie. Viewing Blade II after Cronos (which also starred Perlman) and The Devil's Backbone (his independent, Spanish-language films), his style is truly at the center of everything and holds the movie together. What I love the most is that Del Toro has a definite idea of what a vampire is, and has done his best to imprint that in his various works. There are similarities between The Reapers, the vampire from Cronos, and the vampires from his novel The Strain. It's as if he's incorporated all the worlds he's helped build into his own personal mythology. Del Toro's work here is stylish and while the action is weak in places, he certainly knows how to stage a horror scene.

It helps that Del Toro really knows how to incorporate practical visual effects and CGI to it's best uses. The CGI here is a hundred times better than the first film, and everything meshes nicely with the practical effects. Unfortunately, the plot of the Blade II falls a little short. Some of it makes little to no sense, there are gigantic plot holes, and some terribly dialogue. But it doesn't matter. You're caught up in the style and the spectacle. Another reason to love Blade II is the fact that Hellboy artist and creator Mike Mignola, along with comic artist Tim Bradstreet worked as concept artists in the design department to help create many of the film's memorable imagery and characters.

The two disc DVD of Blade II is packed with extras, including two commentary tracks, deleted scenes, featurettes, art galleries and a music video, among others.

If you liked the first Blade movie, then you will absolutely be blown away by Blade II, and I consider this a must-have in any collection. If you like vampires killing and being scary and gory, then this is likely the only place you'll find 'em anytime soon, and if you like over the top, non-stop action, then look no further.