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Snipes' Latest Blends Vampires With Hong Kong-Style Action

(This review originally appeared in the August 20-26, 1998 Long Island Voice.)

Click to read the column Blade: The Wolfman's Vampire

Reviewed by Beth Hannan Rimmels

Press releases keep insisting that Blade is an action film, not a vampire film. In reality, it’s a kick-ass blend of both.

Wesley Snipes plays the title character whose mother was bitten by a vampire in the ninth month of her pregnancy. As such, Blade can walk in the daylight like a human but has the strength and regeneration ability of a vampire. He’s also the vampire world’s worst nightmare — his only goal in life is their elimination.

Blade’s assisted in his quest for vampire genocide by Whistler (Kris Kristofferson), his weaponsmith, friend and backup in tight situations. They eventually team up with Dr. Karen Jenson, a hematologist Blade rescues from a vampire. Karen is part of the new generation of female action characters: While she starts off as a damsel in distress, she’s smart and learns to kick butt herself rather than waiting to be rescued over and over again.

At the risk of sounding like the film’s hype, these vampires are nothing like previous movie vampires. They’re not romantic and tortured like Dracula or Anne Rice’s gothic creations. Nor are they physical monsters as in Nosferatu. They’re also much better organized than the blood suckers in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. These vampires are more like the mob with their hooks into every government and organization.

The film partially focuses on the struggle between the "pure" vampires (those born to vampire parents), led by Dragonetti (Udo Kier), and the latest generation of turned vampires, led by Deacon Frost (Stephen Dorff). Dragonetti’s associates believe in discretion despite their power in the human world whereas Frost wants to openly rule the world with hedonistic abandon. To that end, Frost seeks to summon the Blood God.

Unfortunately, the film’s one real flaw is a scene near the end of Blade between Karen and Frost. Until this point, Frost talks about how vampires will rule the world once the Blood God is summoned, with the implication being that they’ll become even more powerful or be able to walk in the sun. Yet when he talks to Karen, he says that the Blood God is a hurricane that will cover the world, turning every human into a vampire. Why would Frost want to do that? Who will they feed on? Plus, when the Blood God is summoned, it doesn’t occur like that at all. Ignore that one scene, and the plot works except for two small nits I could pick about the vampire bible translation and the Blood God summoning.

Another bit that could seem like a script mistake is really an editing flaw. When you see Frost put on a cream before going into daylight, it’s not a regular sunblock but rather a special one designed by his chemical company (which isn’t mentioned in the film) that allows vampires to go tolerate indirect sunlight for about 15 minutes. A clear explanation never surfaces in the film, but scriptwriter David S. Goyer clarified it at a panel at Comic-Con International in San Diego. For the video release, they should reinsert the explanation and change the Karen/Frost scene.

The action scenes are killer, heavily inspired by the Hong Kong school of violence. Snipes is as slick and deadly as the original comic book version of Blade. The cleverness and special effects when he takes down vampires gives the film an edge. Director Stephen Norrington does a good job balancing plot, character development and action. His use of time-lapse filming for scene transitions looks cool and emphasizes the vampires’ otherworldly speed. Needless to say, there’s tons of blood but less guts than there could have been. Blade manages to be reasonably gory without being too grotesque. I’m normally a bit squeamish, but Blade never pushed too far.

Blade is the movie Marvel Comics has been waiting 20 years for: Both a well-done movie and one that faithfully recreates one of its coolest supernatural characters. Even if that means nothing to you, it’s an exciting action/horror hybrid that should not have been relegated to the summer movie dog days of August. Blade could have turned Godzilla into sushi.

(Directed by Stephen Norrington. A New Line Cinema release.)


Review 1998 Long Island Voice.)








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