Young Blood Lacks Bite In 'Blade: Trinity'

By Stephen Hunter
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, December 8, 2004

Watching "Blade: Trinity" is like being rolled down a marble staircase in an oil drum.

The movie is loud, dark, bumpy and not even a little fun. You emerge into daylight bruised and battered, suffering a case of movie abuse. You don't need a film critic; you need a social worker.

Possibly that was inevitable, but one can't help recalling that the previous film in the series, "Blade II," had a real director (the Mexican wonderboy Guillermo del Toro) and an epic scale. It was the best kind of pagan fun, a celebration of the debauched culture of those who live on blood and those who hunt them, given a synth-pop beat and filmed in the dank clubs of Eastern Europe. Wesley Snipes spoke softly and carried a big sword.

In "Blade: Trinity," Snipes talks hardly at all, and when he does it's with the grumpy bitterness of an old guy who thinks he is entitled to more. In this case, he is.

Instead, he gets less. Like oh so many older guys, he's surrounded by smartmouth kids who know it all and hunger to replace him. They all think they're funnier than he is and better looking than he is and that the movie should be about them, not him. What they don't get is that what sells a movie isn't just youth and charm, quite common in this world, but charisma -- the power to dominate a scene without moving or talking. That's something Snipes has and nobody else in this film does.

When he lets go, in full "Blade" splendor, a fusion of action, fury and righteousness, he's the best thing in the film. But mostly Snipes is in the background as Jessica Biel and Ryan Reynolds take the forefront, on director David Goyer's theory that youth must be served. (I agree, though I prefer my youth served over fettuccine with a Madeira cream sauce and a nice chilled pinot noir.)

The movie takes off from the shaky idea that Dracula has returned from a millennium or so under the Middle Eastern sands and, like everybody who has overslept, he wants breakfast! Drac -- called "Drake" here for some reason, and played by the unprepossessing Dominic Purcell -- when annoyed turns from human to demonic form, 6 feet 8 inches of "Predator" imitation. His mouth looks like something they used to pick up radioactive waste at Chernobyl. Soon enough he's laid up with a colony of high-tech vamps led by Parker Posey at her most downtown languid, and they begin to cruise and drain the night away.

Meanwhile Blade, framed by the vamps for killing an actual person rather than a vamp and pursued by the FBI (a plot strand the movie ultimately forgets all about), takes up with a new set of vampire hunters, kids all. The prime funbunchers are wiseguy Reynolds and dish Biel. Somehow Reynolds's character, Hannibal King, has been designated The Amuser by Goyer, so much of the screen time is spent on his ironic quips. He's one of those guys who always have a comeback.

Goyer plays this for laughs but Snipes isn't laughing, and somehow you feel his discomfort with his premature retirement; the movie needed more of him and less of the kids. As for Biel, mainly she models really ripped abs and shows off her archery skills.

But once the action starts, everything else stops. It's just one battle royal after another, most of it generic, all of it forgettable. Bring aspirin and don't say you haven't been warned.

Blade: Trinity (110 minutes, at area theaters) is rated R for bloodshed and stomach muscles.

© 2004 The Washington Post Company