The face breaking, vamp steaking, take-no-shit Daywalker has returned.
That’s right, Blade, otherwise known as Wesley Snipes’ calmer and more mild mannered alter ego, is back and this time he’s only gone and brought Oscar winner and peerless visualist Guillermo Del Torro with him!
To be fair, this was back in 2002 where by Gullimero Del Toro’s first attempt at cracking the US was the heavily compromised giant bug flick, Mimic. After retreating back to his native lands and turning out the thoughtful and achingly gorgeous The Devil’s Backbone, however, he nailed his second attempt 2002 with bone shattering style and bloodthirsty verve.
The plot is A to B simple, Blade is hunting down his former mentor Whistler (a beyond craggy Kris Kristofferson who spends the lion’s share of his screen time amusingly soaking up extreme verbal and physical abuse from the vast majority of the cast) who despite blatantly being killed in the first film has been ret-conned back into life by being held, tortured and semi-turned into into a potential neck chewer by vengeful vamps. Upon finding him and curing him, royal agents in the form of techno, vampire, ninjas (this IS Del Toro after all) approach Blade and his motley band to appeal for help. It seems a virulent, highly lethal, new strain of vampire called The Reapers are stalking the streets in the form of patient zero Jared Nomack (a surprisingly effecting turn from former Bros drummer Luke Goss), a nosferatu-esque creature who, if left unchecked, could turn the entire vampire and human population in a matter of weeks. Teaming up with the Bloodpack, a crack vampire team trained to hunt Blade himself and led by the vampire king’s daughter, the Daywalker has to go to war with a near invinsible foe with untrustworthy allies wherever he looks, can Blade possibly hope to persevere purely by beating the utter shit out of anything that looks at him funny?
Blade II is one of those delightful movies where the actually plot is a flimsy excuse for a world class talent to let their hair down and let their creative juices flow into all manner of funky creatures, crunching fight scenes and bizarre concepts which on this level delivers some hugely rewarding treats.
Take the Reapers for example; their mandible bone unhinging and splitting to make their mouth a hideous, vaginal, yawning maw which a tentacle-like stinger emerges. No one but Del Toro would come up with something so grotesquely fascinating, yet so utterly repellent when a lesser filmmaker would have gone with something more generic and simple (in fact Del Toro was so enamoured of the Reaper design he basically stole it wholesale and remade Blade II but without Blade for his novel/TV show The Strain). The director also casts an intelligent eye over his fight scenes too with each brutal, bruising confrontation handled in a different way. For example an opening brawl is viscous, yet elegant while a later scene where Blade disassembles a room full of helmeted guards is far more hands on, utilizing more wrestling moves and rough housing and finally the end showdown between Blade and Nomack is realized as some sort of superhuman, anime style punch-fest with the combatants morphing into CGI and back again to perform skull-flattening feats of comic book uber violence.
The cast is loaded with cool faces too – be it Hellboy leading man Ron Pearlman, to scruffy Walking Dead alumni Norman Reedus and even the Cat from Red Dwarf – everyone looks like they’re having a thoroughly unhealthy amount of fun spitting hard boiled one liners at each orher; where else could you hear Kristofferson call Pearlman a “fucking nipple head”?
It’s exhilarating stuff and Del Toro, in tandem with his glowering and towering, enigmatic lead, wisely uses David Goyer’s amusingly foul mouthed script (“You’re one c*nt hair from hillbilly heaven!” is one such line worthy of Oscar Wilde) as a coat hanger for his boundless imagination – which is precisely what Stephen Norrington did with the original to equally fun effect – and creates possibly one of the greatest and most satisfying unsung genre sequels since Terminator 2. Some may grouse that the plot it too heavy on incident for a filmmaker the calibre of Del Toro, or there’s too much fantasy stuff compared with the more urban feel of the original, or even that Donnie Yen in an early American appearance is woefully underused (he was also fight coordinator) but at the end of the day(walker), this is Blade’s world. We just live in it.