Blade Review

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Half-vampire, half-human, the superhuman vigilante known only as Blade must prevent a cabal of vampires bringing about the end of the world.


However traditional Van Helsing's crucifix-waving, mythology-spouting vampire-hunting histrionics may be, there's something altogether more reassuring about a pumped-up Wesley Snipes kicking six kinds of undead crap out of the undead bloodsuckers.

Meet Blade. From the outset it's clear this is a troubled hero - a pre-credit sequence has him enter the world shortly after his mother's fatal encounter with a pointy-toothed demon of the night. Hardly your model birth. But every superhero has their dark side to wrestle with and being half-vampire just leaves you with an aggravating desire for meat cooked very, very rare. With a nifty serum suppressing such cravings and equipped with weaponry by grizzled armourer Abraham Whistler (Kristofferson), Blade launches a one-man crusade to rid the world of vampires, forsaking the classic cross and holy water combo for a more forthright reliance on weighty darts, bullets capped with garlic essence and a sword edged in silver.

As ever in comic book translations, the film is tasked with carrying the conviction of big screen entertainment, while remaining true to its escapist fantasy origins. But although Blade is occasionally uneven, it treads the line rather more successfully than most by halting its tongue halfway into the cheek, and ladling a swathe of sicko shocks and enough whirling combat to keep serious horror and action fans satisfied. Snipes' formidable presence is crucial to selling this, his strength as an actor just about excusing some ludicrous lines; his martial arts expertise allowing close-up coverage of the flashy choreography. And wisely trading on charisma and implied menace in the face of his adversary's physical might, Dorff is a worthy nemesis as the seductive Deacon Frost, cooking up a suitably megalomaniac and blood-soaked plot involving ancient vampire lore and the subjugation of the human race.

Director Norrington's music video background is evident but turns out to be highly effective in energising the concept - his stall is set out in a thrilling opener in which pounding techno fills an abattoir night club and assembled corpuscle-quaffers are driven into further frenzy by blood piped through the sprinkler system. The party comes to a premature end when Blade gatecrashes in rather spectacular fashion. Norrington's ability with stuntwork, fight sequences and positing CGI are unquestionable.

In film terms, the superhero genre is only ever entered into if a franchise is in the offing and even before a postscript that couldn't have heralded a sequel more blatantly if "Blade will return . . ." ran as a subtitle, it's clear that this is planned merely as an opening act. Given the participation of his production company, Amen Ra Films, Snipes has made a knowing investment.

Some ropy CGI aside, this is slick, energetic fun.