Canny Snipes

Rating: NNNyou have to admire the commer-cial canniness of Wesley Snipes. He wanted an action movie franchise, and he got.

Rating: NNN

you have to admire the commer-cial canniness of Wesley Snipes. He wanted an action movie franchise, and he got it, playing the half-human/half-vampire vampire hunter with the sword and the cool leather outfit adapted from the Marvel Comic. That he’s essentially stepped back from doing any actual acting in the process is one of those unfortunate by-products, a sort of cinematic toxic waste.For the second Blade, he’s managed a directorial upgrade, from Stephen Norrington to Guillermo del Toro, who did the odd Mexican vampire film Kronos (which also featured Ron Perlman), the nifty giant bug movie Mimic and The Devil’s Backbone, which played the Festival circuit last year.

Shooting in Prague and Toronto, Snipes has also added production designer Carol Spier, best known for her work with David Cronenberg. She gives the film a very sleek look, particularly in the vampire headquarters.

In Blade II, Blade hooks up with the vampires who appear at his super-secret headquarters as ninja warriors (CGI ninja warriors, from the look of it) to recruit his help against a new strain of evil, super-duper vampires who feed on vampires. “They’re like crack addicts! All they do is feed!”

The head vamp, who’s gone for the Nosferatu look and isn’t nearly as cute as Stephen Dorff in the first Blade movie, points out that when they run out of vampires, they’ll come after humans!

So it’s off to the sewers of Prague. I think. Sometimes the action seems to be set in L.A., sometimes in Prague, with no warnings about transitions between the two.

There is much fighting along the way, as well as the most sensible anti-vampire weapon ever, a grenade that emits great pulses of UV radiation, which, according to this wing of vampire mythology, is the part of sunlight that really does the job. It makes a lot more sense than carrying a shotgun, which Blade does.

Blade and Blade II are really about the fetishization of Wesley Snipes — about photographing him in astonishingly good light and framing him as if he were a sacred object.

This kind of filming of male actors (female stars have a long history of devotional close-ups) started when George Cosmatos’s Rambo II devoted all that time to showing Sylvester Stallone in tight close-ups lacing up his combat boots and tying on his headband.

Snipes is, as mentioned above, no fool, and the director, too, is smart enough to keep the camera on the money. Del Toro, on past evidence, will do better work than this sharp-looking piece of star worship, though he does an effective job here.

Given his apparent choice of career path, alas, I wish that I could say the same for Snipes, but I fear that this is as good as it will get.

BLADE II directed by Guillermo del Toro, produced by Michael De Luca, Peter Frankfurt and Wesley Snipes, written by David S. Goyer based on characters created by Marv Wolfman and Gene Colan, with Wesley Snipes, Kris Kristofferson, Ron Perlman and Leonor Varela. 122 minutes. A New Line Cinema production. An Alliance-Atlantis release. Opens Friday (March 22). For venues and times, see First-Run Movies, page 83. Rating: NNN

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