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Blade (1998)

by on 2011/01/17

“You don’t know me. You don’t know anything about me.”

* * * *

There are some movies that make my bluey-pale hands shake even contemplating a review. Be still my quaking fingers, here goes my Blade review.

I come back to the Blade series time and time again. Ok, maybe not the misguided Blade Trinity (2004). But Blade I and Blade II (2002) are movies I’ve seen over and over without ever tiring of my Daywalker.

In fact, the movie Roger Ebert called a “vomitorium of viscera,” Blade II, is one of my favourite movies of all time. Hands down.

Blade (1998), based on the Marvel Comics character, is driven by a career-defining performance from Wesley Snipes. Burly, monosyllabic Snipes is commanding in the role, as hard and tough as his armoured breastplate.

Born of a mother bitten by a vampire mere hours before giving birth, Blade has all of a vampire’s strengths – regeneration, speed, power. The vampire “virus” undergoes genetic changes in Blade, giving him the thirst for human blood but making him immune to garlic and sunlight.

We are told that a young Blade was discovered by Whistler (Kris Kristofferson) wandering the streets, preying on the homeless. Whistler, weapons-maker, philosopher, teacher, takes Blade in, helps him control his thirst, and turns Blade into a vampire-killing machine.

Together, they are a twisted, unlikely, entertaining two-person army against legions of the undead.

The vampires in the Blade series aren’t the feral, dirt-dwelling monsters of John Carpenter’s Vampires. These are slick, urban and urbane monsters. As we learn: “They’ve got their claws into everything. Politics, finance, real-estate. They own half of downtown.”

They’ve even got nightclubs that rain blood down on the dancers, as we learn in the incredible opening sequence. The Blade series has given us some of great nightclub scenes.

Unfortunately for the vampires, Blade is always there to rain down vengeance on their blood-drenched parade. There’s really nothing like a Wesley Snipes’ smile just before he decimates a legion of vampires.

Directed by Stephen Norrington, this movie gives us villains that are just as interesting and powerful as the heroes. And there’s none more scary, urbane and decadent in the vampire world than Elder Dragonetti (Udo Kier), a leader in the powerful House of Erebus. If you need a jaded European who oozes contempt, Udo Kier is your man.

With slightly less oily polish than Dragonetti, there’s Deacon Frost (Stephen Dorff). There’s a power struggle in the House of Erebus. New-blood Frost has grand designs, including unleashing an ancient prophecy that will allow vampires to rule the world.

Dorff is compelling as the blood-thirsty, ambitious, digital-generation vampire. Even Frost’s gangster moll Racquel (Traci Lords) is interesting – a giggling killer in ponytails and rave gear.

Caught in the crossfire of this war, lovely Dr. Karen Jenson (N’Bushe Wright) is bitten by a char-broiled corpse – a vampire that Blade didn’t quite finish off. Something about the bleeding Dr. Jenson reminds Blade of the mother he’d lost. He allows himself a momentary lapse in stoicism, and takes the infected woman to his safehouse.

A strange romance blooms between the two. An interesting couple, their ideal evening out is ramming each other’s dislocated shoulders back into place.

The fast-paced violence that follows shows some real creativity. Blade skewers a vampire to a wall and lights him on fire. Blade grates the head of the same vampire on a speeding subway train. Blade single-handedly battles wave after wave of familiars and vampire SWAT teams who are armed with cattle prods and night sticks.

It isn’t a perfect film. I’m not huge on some of the special effects, particularly the parts where Blade blows up vampires with an coagulant, making them look briefly like the Kool-Aid Man before they explode.

The worst part of the movie for me is Pearl (Eric Edwards), an enormous, nude vampire puddle of a being. This repellent creature gives Blade a key piece of the puzzle …but at what cost to my precious psyche?

All things considered though, boy, do I love Blade. And for me, the only thing that would be better than this Blade is even more Blade.

* * * *

Rated R for strong, pervasive vampire violence and gore, language, and brief sexuality.

120 minutes

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