March 23, 2002 -- "Blade II" is a mixture of genres, part martial arts and part horror gorefest, like its predecessor, "Blade." Forget about character development. This is flat-out violence with very little dialogue to slow things up.
Blade, played by Wesley Snipes ("U.S. Marshals") is a part vampire who is immune to sunlight, hence his nickname, "Daywalker." He has the strength and speed of a vampire, without the other traditional weaknesses. He is the sworn enemy of all vampires, until something even worse comes along. A mutated strain of the disease that causes vampires creates a newer, more deadly type of vampire called a Reaper. Reapers are stronger and faster, and they must feed more often. They are a serious threat, not only to mankind, but to the survival of vampires, too. After meeting with the vampire leader, Damaskinos (Thomas Kretschmann), Blade agrees to work with a specially-trained group of vampires called a bloodpack to eliminate the Reapers before they decimate humanity.
The truce between the bloodpack and Blade is an uneasy one, mainly because the original purpose of the bloodpack was to kill Blade. Blade does, however form a relationship with one of the bloodpack members, Nyssa (Leonor Varela of "The Tailor of Panama"), who is the daughter of Damaskinos. One of the other members of the bloodpack, Rienhardt (Ron Perlman of "Enemy at the Gates"), does not disguise his hatred of Blade, and other members of the bloodpack are equally untrustworthy. Blade assumes they could turn on him at any time. The fragile alliance sets off to battle a deadly enemy.
The amount of gore and blood in the film is extreme, much more so than in the first film. In one scene, a person is split in half by a sword. In another scene, an eye is seen moving in a head that has been split in half. There are even "Hannibal"-like scenes of cannibalism that are pretty disgusting. The level of martial arts action is also elevated, thanks to the efforts of fight choreographer Donnie Yen, who also served as the martial arts coordinator on "Iron Monkey," one of the best martial arts films ever made. Yen also plays the part of Snowman, a member of the bloodpack. The fight scenes are well-staged, the stunt work is excellent, and the makeup and special effects are top of the line. One of the main reasons the fight scenes work so well is Snipes' skill as a fighter. He reportedly has earned a sixth-degree black belt in karate.
One of the more interesting effects has to do with the faces of the Reapers, which open up, "Alien"-like to reveal jaws within jaws, used for feeding on victims. The effect of faces opening up like flower petals to reveal nasty, snake-like inner jaws appears to be a combination of makeup effects (Steve Johnson was in charge of special makeup effects) and computer graphics. The overall effect is very convincing and very creepy. There is liberal use of computer graphics in the film, primarily to show the spectacular "burning" deaths of vampires. There is a lot of eye candy in the movie. The acting is solid with Snipes and the laconic Kris Kristofferson of "Planet of the Apes"), reprising their roles from the original. Kristofferson's character, Whistler, is literally brought back from the dead for this sequel.
While the film does have its drawbacks, such as big plot holes, too much gore, and virtually no character development, it delivers what films like this are supposed to deliver. It delivers well-choreographed fight scenes, great stunts and great special effects. In addition, the cinematography by Gabriel Beristain of "The Spanish Prisoner," the production design by Carol Spier of "Mimic," the art direction by Elinor Rose Galbraith ("Dracula 2000") and James F. Truesdale ("Vanilla Sky") are also of high quality, as is the costume design by Wendy Partridge ("Highlander: Endgame"). Director Guillermo del Toro ("Mimic") also does a good job. It is a mixed bag, to be sure, but overall, I give it a C+.
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