If “Blade II” has any apparent theme to it, it is this: Wesley Snipes is one badass m**********r. This becomes abundantly clear during the opening 15 minutes or so, in which his titular vampire hunter makes slick, quick work of doing away with an array of bloodsuckers. That the same idea is reinforced over and over again for the remainder of the film may strike one as being shamelessly indulgent for its producer-star– and there’s no denying that, to a certain degree, it is–but when the finished product is as big of a blast as “Blade II,” then there’s really no point in complaining.
Lest we forget, this is a sequel to the hit 1998 Marvel Comics adaptation centering around a half-human, half-undead superhero, and as such one would only expect all manner of awesome derring-do. Snipes, picking up where he left off in the original film, reminding audiences of the charismatic cool that has too often been lost in some of his more recent efforts (The Art of War, anyone?). Unlike the original film, however, which pitted him against a most unintimidating adversary in Stephen Dorff, the Daywalker faces off against a truly worthy match: the Reapers, a new mutant breed of vampire impervious to both silver and garlic, and hence can only be killed with light.
With so many of these deadly creatures in the wild feeding on both humans and vampires, Blade strikes a reluctant alliance with a group of vampires known as the Bloodpack. As this ragtag group fire gunshots after gunshots at the Reapers, who keep coming in for the kill, “Blade II” at times resembles “Aliens,” but director Guillermo Del Toro stages all the mayhem with enough sleek and unique style that it feels fresh and exciting.
While Snipes looks and plays the part well in the film, the real hero of “Blade II” is Del Toro; he ups the ante from the film in every respect. The action is more heavily stylized and energetic, not to mention Del Toro gives Snipes greater opportunity to show off his martial arts moves. (Sadly, Hong Kong star Donnie Yen, who appears as one of the Bloodpack, is not given much chance to strut his stuff.) The horror element is a lot stronger, and the new villains are more frightening and gruesome (and, yes, the blood factor is significantly increased this time around). More of a surprise is how the token stabs at drama play quite competently for a popcorn entertainment such as this, and Snipes does expectedly well with the added dramatic meat given to his character. Leonor Varela also does a nice job as the daughter of the vampire overlord (Thomas Kretschmann), and Kris Kristofferson continues to click with Snipes as Blade’s mentor Whistler.
Of course, the drawing card for “Blade II” is not the performances or the writing (David S. Goyer once again pens the script, and once again he does a serviceable job) but the promise of a blood-soaked action/horror thrill ride, and Snipes and Del Toro get the down-and-dirty job done with style.