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  Blade Blood Fight
Year: 1998
Director: Stephen Norrington
Stars: Wesley Snipes, Stephen Dorff, Kris Kristofferson, N'Bushe Wright, Donal Logue, Udo Kier, Arly Jover, Traci Lords, Kevin Patrick Walls, Tim Guinee, Sanaa Lathan, Eric Edwards, Donna Wong, Carmen Thomas, Shannon Lee, Kenny Johnson, Clint Curtis
Genre: Horror, Action, AdventureBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: In 1968, a woman (Sanaa Lathan) was brought into the city hospital with a deep wound to her neck, and was not expected to live. To make matters worse, she was pregnant, but the doctors managed to save the baby who grew up to be an unusual individual with a mission in this world: track down the vampire who killed his mother, one Deacon Frost (Stephen Dorff). Tonight, bringing this tale up to date, a man is taken to an exclusive nightclub by a glamorous mystery woman (Traci Lords), but when the sprinkler system is set off and blood pours over the dancers he twigs that all is not right. Just as the clubbers are whipped up into a frenzy, a tall, dark figure appears among them... Blade (Wesley Snipes), vampire killer.

Although not many regarded it as such at the time, with complaints that marrying an action movie to something more fantastical was not a happy union, Blade was surprisingly significant in the path Hollywood took for its blockbusters and would-be blockbusters. Of course, East Asian cinema had being taking this mix and match approach to their genre efforts for decades, and that was where screenwriter David S. Goyer and director Stephen Norrington adopted their inspiration from, most obviously in their combat scenes which had an unmistakable martial arts flavour about them. But there was another important element that pointed the way to the future, as this was the first Marvel movie to become a franchise, thereby demonstrating that company had promise for its properties.

Blade was not as huge as some of those Marvel entries would become, and pretty much fizzled out with its third instalment and television series, but it did have its fans and a lot of that was down to Norrington's methods, developing a sleek, kinetic style to the film that was all shiny surfaces and chic nastiness, again not something the cognoscenti would respond to particularly, but for those wanting the kind of comic book business conveyed as forcefully as possible, to almost an overbearing degree if it hadn't all been so oddly weightless, then a template was certainly set by this. Following Marvel adaptations would shy away from the visceral, and definitely leave out the blood, but they had a lot to thank Goyer and Norrington for as regards the presentation of its setpieces and how they were integrated.

The setting was one of its own mythology, rather than the Dracula-based background Blade had emerged from in the nineteen-seventies comic books, yet by taking it very seriously as if it was some fantasy gospel or other they again established how the action horror technique was best recommended to convey its plots: never give away any sign that this was actually rather silly. With Snipes as the hero, swapping the original character's goggles for something more fashionable in shades and donning all black body armour and swooshing coat you had an actor who had found his ideal role, ideal in popular cinema at least; when people complain Marvel's screen heroes were largely white and male, remind them those folks would be nowhere without Snipes setting the bar high.

As for that plot, it was only complicated should you have sought to follow it down to the details of that mythology, as Frost tries to usurp the vampire high council (led by former Dracula Udo Kier, no mistake in the casting there) with his own rebels, and recast himself as a god of blood so he can, I dunno, rule the world or something, what do these guys always want? Blade is the man to stop him, though he doesn't work entirely alone, as he needs Whistler (Kris Kristofferson) to supply him with weapons and a serum that prevents him turning full vampire, a drug addiction theme many nineties bloodsuckers would adopt, and the doctor, Karen (N'Bushe Wright), he has saved from one of his not quite vanquished foes who reanimated in the morgue also assists as well as offering chaste love interest. If this was a somewhat empty experience, more wrapped up in the surfaces and reluctant to delve any deeper than stock hero with a shadowy past machinations, then it was very easy to watch, a good reason it became the success it was. Music, often techno, by Mark Isham.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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