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'Blade': A Cut Below

By Rita Kempley
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, August 21, 1998

  Movie Critic

Blade Wesley Snipes is half-human and half-vampire in "Blade." (New Line)

Stephen Norrington
Wesley Snipes;
Stephen Dorff;
Kris Kristofferson;
Judson Scott;
and Traci Lords
Running Time:
2 hours
Under 17 restricted

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"Blade" is a vulgar attempt to revamp the undead genre by introducing computer-generated splatter and a casketful of themes from genetic tinkering to conspiracy theories.

It seems we're being bled to death by big business and big government because they're run by a trilateral commission of vampires. But the execution here, however darkly stylish, never lives up to the metaphor's rich promise. The time-honored quest for the ultimate hickey, it's not.

Director Stephen Norrington ("Death Machine") sets a grinding pace that's amplified by Blade (Wesley Snipes), the stone-faced half-vampire, half-human hero. But who needs comic relief when the apocalyptic blood tide is rising?

Certainly not Blade, who is sworn to defend humanity and to destroy the night stalkers, one of whom infected him with vampirism while he was still in his human mother's womb.

Though his primary weapon is his trusty silver sword, Blade's arsenal includes everything from hypodermics of garlic serum to an ultraviolet vampire toaster. The only thing that doesn't work anymore is the crucifix, although the filmmakers do not hesitate to dress up this morbid comic book melodrama with chalices and other sacred artifacts. And certainly Blade himself seems a messianic savior.

Deacon Frost (Stephen Dorff), his yuppified arch-nemesis, is about to compound the vampire threat by invoking La Magra, the ancient blood god. But he must first trap Blade and anoint the god's altar with his powerful mutant blood. Whatever.

Though Blade's enemies are legion, he does have a pair of resourceful allies. Kris Kristofferson, as a crusty old biker out to avenge his family, is his sidekick. And N'bushe Wright, as a recently bitten hematologist, is his other sidekick. She is working to find an anti-vampire serum for herself and Blade, who is losing the battle against his vampire side. The thirst is upon him.

Will the suckheads prevail? If so, will they be able to walk by day without wearing sunblock? Or will Blade prevent the imminent bloodbath? How much blood can you squeeze from a turnip?

"Blade" makes one long for Count Dracula's old-world manners and gallows drolleries. But they have no place in this dreary neo-Gothic play on I'm-gonna-git-you-sucka. The count would be rolling in his grave if only there weren't a stake in his heart.


© Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company

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