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Blade II features brutal, blood-splattering battles, a slashing samurai silver sword, close-ups of vampire neck-sucking and sunlight-exposed vampires blowing up. Yet, along with the carnage, this sequel to Blade possesses social redeeming value. Besides exploring the moral question of whether a vampire keeps his word, Blade II delivers a significant and timely social message: sometimes playing God backfires big time!

Wesley Snipes reprises his role as Blade, the half vampire/half human warrior with vampire strength and immortality, but no fatal sunlight sensitivity. The vampires call him "Daywalker." Blade hunts and kills these leeches to protect the human race, which still naively believes vampires exist only in Bram Stoker's vivid imagination.

The movie opens with Blade hacking and shooting his way through charging vampires to rescue his cantankerous mentor Whistler (Kris Kristofferson), floating half alive in a tank of liquid while the vampires harvest his blood. Wait! Whistler shot himself in Blade after the vampires sucked on him. What gives? Easy, the suicide took place off screen. Maybe he missed.

During Whistler's absence, Blade joined up with Scud (Norman Reedus), whom he rescued from two vampire babes camping in the woods. Scud specializes in weapons and security. Whistler dislikes the whippersnapper, growling at the latter like the family dog at a stranger.

The sequel dishes up some surprises too. The Vampire Nation seeks a truce with Blade to exterminate mutant vampires -- Reapers, who feed, not only on humans, but also vampires! Blade agrees, mostly for the chance to explore Vampire Central. Whistler voices his suspicions, believing the Vampires really intend to kill Blade.

The Reapers prove to be nasty creatures, indeed. Forget the "two elongated teeth" bloodsucking technique. A cleft runs from a Reaper's lower lip to the chin's bottom.. When food appears, the cleft tears open to form a mandible (think "insect") and a gaping maw from which a tongue with undulating tendrils pops out. The Reaper clamps the victim's neck with this vise-like appendage and sucks away. Other Reaper characteristics: bald heads covered with bright blue veins, the ability to crawl on walls, a chimpanzee running style on hands and feet and an insatiable appetite. Forget the silver bullets and garlic. Only sunlight kills them. When exposed to light, Reapers explode. Blade and his vampire "buddies" must find a way to bring sunlight into the sewers, where the Reapers dwell.

In addition to fighting Reapers, Blade must remain vigilant against the elite vampire team known as the Bloodpack originally trained to assassinate him. The leader, Reinhardt (Ron Perlman), immediately exhibits his hate for and desire to off Blade. These reluctant allies, however, must band together as they face hoards of crazed and starving Reapers sprinting through sewer tunnels to ravage them.

For fans of mayhem, Blade II provides a fun fantasy. And relax about the Reapers' fate. The credits announce, "No Reapers were harmed in the making of this film."

Lynn I. Miller

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