Blade review

Poor Dennis (Kenneth Johnson). He thinks he's struck it lucky when sexy Racquel (Traci Lords) takes him to a secret underground club (which is located beneath an abattoir) with the promise of something a little "different". But things become scary when the sprinklers drench the revellers with fresh blood, Racquel grows fangs and everybody starts queuing for a pint - with Dennis on tap.

Enter Blade, the Vampire Slayer. Clad in body armour, packing silver bullets, a samurai sword and hip sunglasses, he needs only moments to decimate the horde of voracious gore-slurpers. Dennis survives, badly in need of a shower and therapy, although one of his would-be killers isn't quite properly slain, as we discover when it's taken to the morgue.

It's produced by Wesley Snipes. It stars Wesley Snipes. And the fight scenes are choreographed by Wesley Snipes. Blade is a guilty pleasure at best. Its style is pure PlayStation, complete with throbbing soundtrack, gravity-defying martial arts and much grue and gore. Unfortunately, the fights and the effects are disappointing and the plot is on a par with a brash American-style TV pilot, less concerned with telling a story than boot-licking the characters and their dark, comic-strip world.

But at least that world is interesting, as the lovely Dr Karen Jensen (Wright) discovers when she's attacked by that not-quite-dead vamp, rescued by Blade and taken to his mentor and armourer, Whistler (Kristofferson). Our hero, we discover, was still in the womb when his mother was attacked by a corpuscle-guzzler. Neither human, nor undead, Blade possesses supernatural strength, incredible agility and healing powers. Fortunately, he can also tolerate daylight and the traditional vampire killers: garlic and silver. Unfortunately, he has inherited an increasing thirst for blood, which he controls with painful injections of garlic serum. In the meantime, he spends his nights in an endless war against jugular-piercers everywhere.

The vampires turn out to be a kind of Eurotrash mafia, who divert resources through their board of directors. These snobs are forever at odds with rebel Deacon Frost (Dorff, doing his Denis Leary impersonation), who also happens to be Blade's nemesis. Blade broods, Frost schemes and vampires die by the visually stylish score. And as soon as you start to wonder if there's going to be a plot, Frost launches a diabolical plan to revive the vampires' ancient Blood God and destroy mankind.

Like it matters. The story, such as it is, is a mix of Ghostbusters and James Bond ("I thought there might be a place for you in our organisation, Mr Blade.") The girls are pretty, there are many exploding torsos and Snipes flexes, poses and fights efficiently. Director Norrington (one of Alien 3's FX-men) keeps the whole Marvel-inspired package looking slick and flashy, although it never quite becomes the adrenalin trip it could have been. Surprisingly, Blade skimps in two vital areas: the second-rate digital effects and the final showdown with Frost, which is short and anti-climactic.

This Wesley Snipes one-man show is far from dull. In chunks, it's slick, stylised, violent and has plenty of edge, but is not quite sharp enough to hit your thrill-buttons regularly. No more than a spattered blend of Ghostbusters and Spawn.

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