Blade (1998)

D: Stephen Norrington
S: Wesley Snipes, Stephen Dorff, N'Bushe Wright

Blade is the best fun with vampires since From Dusk Till Dawn. It depends on your definition of fun, of course, but it is certainly the best over the top comic-strip gorefest in a while. Based on the Marvel comic and numbering star Wesley Snipes and comic-book creator Stan Lee in its producers, this is not a film to be taken seriously for even an instant. But it is self-consistent, well assembled and provides a good quota of busy action scenes to keep the eyes occupied as long as it runs. You don't get to take much home except some vivid images of violent mayhem and splattering blood, but then you don't go in expecting anything else.

The story concerns natural born vampire Snipes who fights his destiny with the aid of a serum concocted by veteran vampire hunter Kris Kristofferson and spends his waking hours wiping out the undead race responsible for his fate (his mother was bitten while pregnant). When haematologist N'Bushe Wright falls into his path, she becomes our guide to the so called 'real' world where uppity vampire Stephen Dorff is hatching a plot to destroy the undead hierarchy (headed by Udo Kier, star of cult fave Andy Warhol's Dracula). There's actually a surprisingly workable plot here which is played out with a mixture of the familiar and the relatively new (though not without its 'buts' and 'what ifs'), but it's not important in the face of the pyrotechnics, make-up effects. This film is based upon the kind of comic-strip imagery which brings adolescent fetishes vividly to life. As with The Crow, the film trades heavily on the appearance of its central character, in this case the immaculately clad and buffed Snipes, supporting leather coat, body armour and a range of deadly weapons. It begins (after a brief set up scene) with a massive slice-em-up in a vampire night club and goes on to mount similar violent melees at regular intervals, leading to an inevitable showdown between Snipes and Dorff. Enjoyable martial arts and lots of rapid editing keep things brisk and silly, though the film is certainly a lot less tongue-in-cheek than From Dusk Till Dawn. It is more consistent though, and it even successfully debates a number of (shudder) themes (its references to race are less than subtle).

It is fun, but only if you're able to make allowances for the level of violent action and general bloodshed. It's all done in the most unreal style possible, so few should run the risk of mistaking this for reality, but there are probably those prone to offence who will find this offensive. But how can you hate a movie where the hero decapitates a villain in order to retrieve his super-cool sunglasses as they tumble through the air?

Review by Harvey O'Brien copyright 1998.