It is a sad but inexorable fact of life that in order to get by in this world, it is necessary to have an income of some sort. There are groceries to buy, shelter to secure and clothes to be put on ones back. And so it is that I look at Guillermo del Toros association with the wretchedly derivative vampire flick BLADE II not so much as selling out to Hollywood, but rather as a way of putting his kids through school. Mr. del Toro, director of the cult classic CRONOS and the flawed but beautiful THE DEVILS BACKBONE, has done what he could, as the saying goes, with what was handed to him. Alas, when youre handed crap to start with, theres really no way to dress it up as anything but.
The plot and I use the word generously, throws in the towel after 10 minutes or so and then, obviously overwhelmed with shame at its shortcomings, lies there inert in a desperate attempt to not draw any more attention to itself than absolutely necessary. Just as well, because each individual scene isnt designed to advance the action or, heavens forefend, actually make sense. No, instead theyre designed to show off the BLADERUNNER redux sets which, after star Wesley Snipes salary and the budget for fake blood, was obviously the biggest expense here. Hence there are romps through the sewer, a futuristic genetic engineering facility with dangerous sculptures, and, of course, the obligatory night club where the undead gather to dance and perform impromptu medical experiments on one another under throbbing strobe lights. The club isnt called The House of Pain for nothing as both the customers and we the audience endure excruciating excesses.
There is some nonsense about a killer virus spreading through the vampire community creating uber-vampires that prey on their fellows, prompting the grand high poobah vampire, who resembles nothing so much as a blanc mange gone rancid, to enlist Blade to stop the carriers before they can decimate the fanged population. Blade, a half-human, half-vampire has been, until now the sworn enemies of vampires, but what the heck, their confrontation gives the filmmakers an excuse to use that really cool vampire lair set where the blanc mange lives, the one with the indoor blood pool.
The only thing even moderately interesting here is the off-kilter nod to tolerance and multiculturalism. The crack team of commandos Blade leads, because theres always a crack team waiting to be led in flicks like these, includes the usual clichés like the Asian guy, the tattooed guy, the guy with the really, really big gun, and the punk chick with magenta hair, but in a move that is as puzzling as it is bold, theres also a Nazi who would like to kill Blade because just because. Now, its deeply troubling for me to find myself in accord with anything a Nazi might advocate, but stopping this film series before theres a third installment, well, thats just good sense and the instrument of its implementation be darned. As for the rest of the team, theres no need to go into any further details about them. Theyre just there to show us how in how very many ways these new uber-vampires can be nasty. Theyre like the red shirts on Star Trek that are blown away before the first commercial, except for Nyssa, the beautiful but icy vampire princess who moves Blade in spite of himself. Or perhaps hes just trying to stifle a belch. Its hard to tell what with Snipes returning to the role of Blade by following the Clint Eastwood school of acting, pretending to be a statue while speaking quietly, though without the menacing, gravely rumble Clint musters. He might also be doing the Eastwood squint, but with the ultra-cool sunglasses that he wears most of the time, its hard to tell.
But thats not important. What is important is how very silly this all becomes by the end, so silly that despite that old instinct for self-preservation that will inevitably kick in, urging you to make for the exit, the grotesque fascination will be too overpowering. This is, after all, a script that borrows liberally, but not well, from among others the ci-mentioned BLADERUNNER, ALIEN, BRAVE NEW WORLD, THE THIRD MAN, NOSFERATU (silent and sound versions) WUTHERINGHEIGHTS, every vampire movie Hammer ever made and, God help us all, RAMBO. Now, when a screenwriter, in this case David S. Goyer, borrows from something like RAMBO there are only so many conclusions to draw. Hes either suffering a case of good-taste denial right up there with Stallones, or its a desperate plea for help to stop him before he writes again. Either way, there must be a by-law in the Writers Guild membership rules that can automatically strip him of his rights and privileges therein because of it, and if there isnt, there should be. This is a flick that would have us believe that Kris Kristofferson, returning as Blades human sidekick and who looks like about 112 miles of very bad road, can, after being tortured by the undead for most of the movie, kick the crap out of a hulking vampire with superhuman powers. Is there anything left to do but either weep or laugh hysterically?
As for del Toro, though a master of moody atmospherics, the which he proves himself with curling yellow fogs and metallic, looming shadows, his approach to photographing martial arts sequences is, shall we say, less than satisfying. Choreographed by Donnie Yen, who plays the Asian guy here and who was so dazzling in IRON MONKEY last year, they might have been the flicks saving grace, but with so many quick edits and tight shots, well never know.
As Ive mentioned over the years, Im from the south and as such Im trained to always try to find something nice to say, even when its BLADE II, so here goes. For all its ineptitude, continuity problems, bad acting, and unintentional guffaws, its still a better film, if only slightly, than QUEEN OF THE DAMNED, and if thats not damning with faint praise, nothing is.