Blade 2 Review
The first Blade film was released in 1998, to critical and audience indifference; however, it later built up something of a cult following on video and DVD, mainly because of its combination of traditional comic-strip thrills and some harder-edged action. It's far from a great film, with a weak villain, a confused plot, and little real verve in the direction, but New Line evidently were pleased enough with its success to commission a sequel, as directed by del Toro, the Mexican director of Cronos, Mimic and The Devil's Backbone, a trio of genuinely inspired horror films. Therefore, expectations were high that this would be a cut above the normal horror sequel, and so it proves to be; in fact, it joins the select group of follow-ups that far surpass the originals.
The plot follows on directly from the last film, diving into action almost immediately as Blade (Snipes) sets out to rescue Whistler (Kristofferson), who appeared to be dead at the end of the first film, but a plot contrivance allows to return, so that he and Blade can be recruited by an elite group of vampires known as the Bloodpack, with such characters as Reinhardt (Perlman), Snowman (Yen)and Asad (John-Jules,a long way from Red Dwarf). Blade and these vampires, who were originally formed with the sole purpose of assassinating him, are forced into an uneasy alliance in order to destroy an entirely new race of vampires, the Reapers, as led by Nomak (Goss). As if this wasn't enough difficulty, Blade must contend with a new sidekick, the geekish Scud (Reedus) and his growing attraction to the vampire Lissa (Valera).
The original film's most talked-about sequence was probably its opening ten minutes, which was a superb example of action choreography unmatched throughout the rest of the film. Thankfully, virtually the whole of the sequel functions on this level, with the brief pauses between action scenes existing as breathing spaces, rather than dull stretches of exposition. Obviously heavily indebted to the likes of Iron Monkey, as can be seen by the casting of Yen, who also acted as fight choreographer, the film's action scenes proceed with real kinetic verve, with a good half-dozen moments that are guaranteed to make an audience laugh in complete disbelief, given the absurdly high amount of violence that is occasionally present.
However, anyone who has been following Del Toro's earlier work at all might have guessed that he is too talented a director merely to function as an efficient hack for hire. Throughout all his films so far, certain themes are beginning to surface, such as the relationships of parents to their children, and lack of responsibility therein, and an utter fascination with the more perverse aspects of the human body. Much of this was foreshadowed in the underrated Mimic, but there's a perverse joy in much of Del Toro's visual coups and stylistic effects; even an incredibly overblown finale that goes into the realms of the operatic feels perfectly in keeping with the rest of his vision. It's perhaps too early to start calling him an auteur after only four films; still, David Fincher and Terrence Malick both qualified after four and three respectively, so it's not too absurd a supposition.
Unsurprisingly, this isn't really an actor's showcase, given that most of the cast have to a) play vampires, and b) fight and die horribly. Given these limitations, it's good to see some extremely unlikely casting (Cat from Red Dwarf!!! The one from Bros!!!) work pretty well, if not so exceptionally that it's genuinely revelatory, and Kristofferson is a wry, fun presence as the hillbilly weapons manufacturer. Snipes, meanwhile, has the charisma and presence to lend a certain gravitas to Blade, as well as being convincingly athletic in the many fight scenes; it's also pleasant to see a touch more humour being brought to the character than before, albeit frequently of the darkest, sickest kind. The Prague setting is used effectively, if not as strikingly as it might have been, and technical credits are all as strong as one might expect. Overall, then, this is about as much fun as any vampire/blaxploitation/comic book film has any right to be, and is highly recommended for a good night out. Great little epilogue, as well, which fans of the original will pick up on instantly...