Blade (review)

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Wesley, the Vampire Slayer

In 1967, a pregnant woman is bitten by a vampire. Thirty years later, the child is out for revenge.

That’s pretty much all there is to say about Blade. Practically Citizen Kane-ish, isn’t it? Gut-wrenching loss in childhood leads a man to become a soulless bloodsucker, or, in this case, a vampire.

Well, no. Wesley Snipes isn’t quite the actor Orson Welles was. And Stephen Norrington isn’t quite the director Welles was. Blade is ludicrous plotted and full of silly, self-important characters spouting inane dialogue. Still, I found it strangely, if only momentarily, diverting.
Some are born vampires, we are told in Blade, and others have vampirism thrust upon them. This schism between “pure” and “made” vampires is the cause of much grief. The powerful cabal of head vampires — all born to it, a real Eurotrash-looking bunch led by Dragonetti (Udo Kier: Armageddon) — “own the police,” have politicians in their pockets, and talk of “offshore accounts.” The young, hip, “made” vampires — headed up by Deacon Frost (Stephen Dorff, who is “really cute” and has “great hair,” according to a young friend of mine, but she’s only 16 and hence must be excused) are like ravers gone amuck, not so much creatures of the night as creatures of the nightlife. “You are a disgrace to the vampire nation,” Dragonetti tells Frost, castigating the young rebel for his lack of discretion in running dance clubs for his fellow vampires and for challenging the status quo. Frost, see, is working on translating an ancient manuscript in a dead language kept in the cabal’s library. It all has something to do with some goofy prophecy about some blood god or something coming back to Earth if something or other happens. None of the pseudoreligious mumbo jumbo is ever adequately explained — indeed, it is not even inadequately explained. But I digress.

Blade (Wesley Snipes: U.S. Marshals, Murder at 1600) is the aforementioned child, who spends his days and nights hunting down vampires and killing them in interesting ways. He can walk by day because he conveniently has all of the strengths of vampires — their speed and reflexes — but none of their weaknesses. He wears a lot of black and packs a lot of heat, favoring bullets that are “silver hollow pointed filled with garlic” (vampires are allergic to silver). He’s a Terminator who sucks — literally — though he prefers to slake his bloodthirst with injections of a drug that, again, is not even inadequately explained away.

Oh, this is cool: If you get bitten by a vampire, explains Blade’s mortal sidekick Abraham Whistler (Kris Kristofferson: Payback), a shot of liquid garlic in the jugular will prevent you from becoming a bloodsucking creature of the night.

Based on a comic book — er, a graphic novel — Blade, like many comics, has a nicely integrated cast that goes refreshingly unremarked upon. Like many comic books, however, Blade the movie takes itself way too seriously. This sort of dead, brooding earnestness somehow works well on the page, but onscreen it translates into breathy whispers, humorless grins, and dire warnings bitten out through gritted teeth, all of which comes out looking silly after a few minutes.

Action fans will find some truly original gruesomeness in Blade, but it’s all mostly the typical gun battles, kung fu fighting, and — as has been legally required in all action movies since Robocop — lots and lots of breaking glass. The vampires Blade creatively does away with disintegrate in a rather cool way, though it’s cartoony looking — CGI has become strikingly more sophisticated in only the year or so since Blade‘s release. Oh, and all the blood — and there’s lot of it, natch — looks like red paint.

Stylish but ultimately empty, Blade is throwaway fun that will amuse horror and action lovers, but probably no one else.

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