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Sequel not bad -- for a pulpy, violent vampire film

Review: 'Blade II' almost sharp

Snipes and Varela
Wesley Snipes and Leonor Varela star in "Blade 2."  

By Paul Clinton
CNN Reviewer

(CNN) -- In 1998 Wesley Snipes walked the walk and talked the talk as Blade, a half-man, half-vampire walking arsenal of high-tech weapons. The character had one all-consuming mission: to save the human race from blood-hungry vampires. (Apparently vampires are everywhere, killing us silly humans left and right -- who knew?) "Blade" made more than $70 million at the box office and both Snipes and New Line Cinema smelled bloo ... er ... franchise.

So it was only a matter of time until "Blade II" came along. (And get ready for "Blade III," likely coming soon to a theater near you.)

Both "Blade" films feature vampires that are nothing like Anne Rice's elegant, sophisticated Lestat and company. These guys wear more leather than the attendees at a bikers' convention. And while Rice's vampires like to play head games with their victims, the guys in the "Blade" movies love to play with their food -- literally. This film is not for the faint-of-heart.

RESOURCES All about Wesley Snipes 

Mexican director Guillermo del Toro is well known in his native country for his fascination with gothic horror, and he brought his taste for the macabre to the United States with his 1997 film "Mimic" starring Mira Sorvino. Now he's really letting go, and pulling out the all the stakes -- pun intended -- with "Blade II."

Surprising humor

Kris Kristofferson reprises his role as Whistler, Blade's mentor and right-hand man. Kristofferson is still an acting version of a rock garden, but this role fits his very limited range. Think of him as Tonto.

A new character introduced in this sequel is Scud, played by Norman Reedus. Scud is Blade's technology adviser and the builder of all the toys. He's also a stoner who's in the battle for the fun of it. The antagonistic relationship between Whistler and Scud provides some of the film's humor.

Kris Kristofferson plays Whistler, Blade's aide-de-camp.  

And there is humor. Much of the success of this sequel must go to screenwriter David S. Goyer, who also penned the first "Blade" film. He's a longtime devotee of comic books, from the most obscure to the most popular. He has a gift for blending the inevitable idiotic action dialogue ("I have my eye on you," "Don't mess with me") with humor and some actual, genuine character development.

Forbidden fruit

But in the end it all boils down to Snipes. He owns this character, and this time around Blade is a little more playful, while not losing a bit of his macho menace. Ron Perlman plays a perfect bad guy, Reinhardt, Blade's major nemesis.

Leonor Varela -- half French and half Chilean, and all woman -- provides the movie's mandatory sexual bombshell, Nyssa, and she's more then up to the task. As a vampire and daughter of the overlord of all vampires (Thomas Kretschmann), she's forbidden fruit for Blade, who has devoted his life to wiping out her kind.

This, of course, makes it a no-brainer that the two will get jiggy with it.

"Blade II" is almost excessively violent -- OK, it is excessively violent -- but that's exactly what Snipes and "Blade" fans want. Believe me, they get it.

"Blade II" opens Friday and is rated R.


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