Witless sequel may prove to be rather draining


Blade II is so witless it wins most of its laughs when Czech-speaking characters spout obscenities that get translated into English subtitles. How do you say "bomb" in Czechoslovakian?

The sequel to the 1998 horror hit once again stars Wesley Snipes in stoic action-figure mode as the title character (derived from the hero of a Marvel comic). Vampires bit his mother when she was pregnant, so he's grown up with all the vampire strengths and one crucial vampire weakness - the need to drink blood. With the help of his mentor, Whistler (Kris Kristofferson), who developed a serum to slake that thirst, Blade sets out on a never-ending quest to extinguish the undead.

This chapter, set in Prague, starts when Blade rescues Whistler from a vampire cell. Then Blade, Whistler and a loose missile called Scud (Norman Reedus) join forces with the elite guard of the Vampire Nation to vanquish the Reapers, extra-super blood-suckers who feed on humans and vampires alike.

It's hard to sympathize with the vampires; they party at blood-soaked raves. And it's hard to tell their enemies apart: every Reaper looks like an albino skinhead, or a member of the Klaus Kinski Fan Club.

The Reapers turn out to be red herrings anyway - at least when it comes to an impending apocalypse. They also have giant, bifurcated mouths that are, literally, full of red herrings: spiky, shredded ones that hook and drain their victims before you can say "Nosferatu." After the third time you see this gross-out, you may think twice the next time your doctor asks you to open your mouth and say "A-h-h-h-h."

The actors are primed for combat, but Tae-Bo commercials deliver more visceral thrills. The director, Guillermo del Toro (who did better with the art house horrors of Cronos and The Devil's Backbone) shoots the battles in dark light and dank quarters, and obscures them further with quick and fancy cutting that might have been done with a computerized Swiss Army knife.

Basically, the sequel replays the original movie's set pieces with even more gore and less coherence: Once again, he is nearly drained of his own blood before coming back stronger than ever. But del Toro makes it hard to follow the most simple and repetitive plot lines.

Sometimes the Reapers are impervious to anything but sunlight, at other times they drop like Native Americans in cheap old shoot-em-up movies.

Even more anemic is the presumed homage to Seven Samurai, featuring the vampires' elite "Blood Pack." All del Toro comes up with is having the lead warrior sneer at Snipes, and ask if Blade can blush.

Can del Toro?

Blade II

Starring Wesley Snipes

Directed by Guillermo del Toro

Rated R (violence, adult language, drugs, sex)

Released by New Line Cinema

Running time 112 minutes

Sun Score: *

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