Courtesy Photo
115 minutes | Rated: R
Opened: Friday, August 21, 1998
Directed by Stephen Norrington

Starring Wesley Snipes, Stephen Dorff, Kris Kristofferson, N'Bushe Wright, Donal Logue, Udo Kier & Tracy Lords

This film got a dishonorable mention on the Worst of 1998 list.


You'd be better off renting an INTELLIGENT subgenre action flick like "The Crow," than to subject yourself to a movie so full of gratuitous exploitation of gore and GQ Goth. This one has little going for it unless you have some special interest in vampire lore (but don't mind seeing it warped), relentless rave music, black leather and/or sharp-edged and high-caliber weaponry. And even then, you'll probably regret the rental.

   VIDEO RELEASE: 6/1/99

Vampire hunter 'Blade' offers little more than blood and loud techno tunes

"Blade" opens at a rave for vampires in which blood is sprayed from fire sprinklers all over a moshing crowd of long-in-the-tooth twentysomethings.

Then in walks Wesley Snipes, decked out like a well-financed, urban Goth Rambo, with guns, swords, bladed boomerangs and the like. He starts hacking up the place with his arsenal, causing vamps to alternatively disintegrate and explode ad nauseam while techno tunes throb through the theater seats at a brain-jarring volume.

And that's pretty much all there is to "Blade" -- bloody battles and a boisterous beat.

Sure there's a bunch of stuff about how Snipes' mysterious, dark vampire hunter was born half-vamp because his mother was bitten while pregnant, and how that gives him special powers. There's also a sub-plot about a gang of young, ambitious, power-hungry, penthouse-dwelling, fashion model nightwalkers who are plotting a coup against the ruling class of stiff, old school, corporate-type vampires (?) that apparently spend their days dallying in politics, finance and real estate instead of trying to take over the world.

But as heavy and dark as that stuff pretends to be -- director Stephen Norrington seems to be going for a mix of "The Crow" and "The Lost Boys" -- it's really nothing more than a front for the gory action numbers, of which there are many.

The thing is, none of the bountiful fight scenes are all that interesting. Short of being terribly bloody and packed with special effects, all the showdowns are strictly stock stuff -- dozens of evil, faceless lackeys politely attacking the hero single-file and choosing to kick box with him despite the fact that they're heavily armed.

"Blade" is spawn from a popular Marvel Comic book series, but it fails to translate the complexity inherent in today's up-market comics. As with all modern bloodsucker movies, it also picks and chooses which bits of vampire lore to which it will adhere. For instance, crosses don't deter vampires here, but silver blades and bullets kill them. (Hang on a second. Isn't that werewolves?)

Following another recent trend, hero Blade has an ally -- a pretty hematologist played by N'Bushe Wright ("Dead Presidents") -- who is seeking a cure for vampirism.

The story, what there is of it, is a complicated lot about the stylish young coup leader trying to resurrect some kind of vampire god and breed a race of light-impervious vamps using half-breed Blade as a template.

Stephen Dorff ("I Shot Andy Warhol"), plays a the lead vampire as a double-espresso clone of the Kiefer Sutherland character in "The Lost Boys."

Kris Kristofferson, who shows up as a grumpy, crusty veteran of the clandestine vampire wars, aids Blade with his expertise and cheap philosophy.

(By the way, why is the war against vampires always a big secret? Wouldn't it help their cause to go public?)

Norrington, whose only other film credit is a 1995 junker called "Death Machine," does give the picture a distinctive look, with dark, industrial nights, washed-out daylight and sped-up photography style that lends an extrinsic, vampires-eye-view to part of the action.

But while "Blade" had the potential to be another "Crow," the end product is Swiss cheesed with easily avoided pitfalls (not the least of which is that these vampires are ridiculously easy to kill) left in the script by a lazy screenwriter who put action above common sense all too often.

In another big let-down, the movie ends with the kind of gratuitously gimmicky climax aimed at simpleton movie goers who whoop and bounce in their seats with delight whenever splatter effects are used.

The saddest thing is that "Blade" fails to take advantage of Wesley Snipes' talent. His extensive knowledge of Capoeria (an African/Brazilian martial art) is put to good use, but here his native acting ability is regulated to playing a buff bad dude with Grace Jones hair who delivers his monosyllabic lines through clenched teeth and a jutted jaw.

I've seen the guy steal movies like "The Waterdance" and "New Jack City," and even enjoying his part in dumb-but-fun movies like "Demolition Man" and "White Men Can't Jump." But I just can't figure out why he keeps making lame action pics like "Passenger 57," "Money Train" and "Blade."

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