- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 7, 2004

The first “Blade” feature made it cool to like comic-book movies. The 1998 original and its 2002 sequel weren’t up to “Spider-Man” snuff, but each offered a stoic anti-hero in Wesley Snipes and a few new twists to vampire mythology.

“Blade: Trinity,” the supposed final part of the film trilogy, shows so little freshness or thematic tension that it reads like a comic book completely written in exclamation marks.

By now, Mr. Snipes’ cool-as-ice Blade is reduced to Schwarzenegger-lite preening. He’s a hero without that wink-wink irony that dopey action flicks demand.

Director David S. Goyer, who wrote all three “Blades,” panders to his base like a candidate on election eve. It’s not enough to cast gorgeous Jessica Biel as a fellow vampire hunter; Mr. Goyer has to maneuver her into a shower sequence and have her download songs on her iPod to prep for battle. The neophyte director can’t resist soaking every reel with slow-motion shots of both the good and bad guys.

Blast that Quentin Tarantino for making slow motion so chic.

A vampire killer’s work is never done, which means Blade is still ridding the world of blood suckers. His trusty mentor, Whistler (Kris Kristofferson), returns to supply him with all the weapons — and crusty bons mots — he needs. One vampire raid goes awry when Blade mistakenly kills a human, which somehow breaks the vampire hunter’s code.

Mr. Kristofferson barks to an impassive Mr. Snipes that the hunter is getting sloppy. Watching the two share the screen is like viewing a method-acting class in reverse.

Now the police want to bring Blade to justice, but our hero has more to worry about than the long arm of the law. A group of vampires, led by indie princess Parker Posey, has resurrected the granddaddy of all night walkers to help them kill Blade.

The dormant Dracula (Dominic Purcell), who prefers partially buttoned white shirts, sure looks menacing with that Predator-style maw. But soon he’s running scared from Blade down a busy street, only able to secure his escape by kidnapping a helpless baby.

He’s as threatening as Michael Jackson on an anti-media jag.

The two are bound to meet again, but this time Blade has a pair of warriors by his side: The puckish Hannibal King (“Van Wilder’s” Ryan Reynolds) is the comic relief whose snarky line readings stop the film cold every time, and the aforementioned Miss Biel is the umpteenth tougher-than-the-boys heroine.

“Blade: Trinity” rarely pauses long enough to let the story’s inconsistencies sink in. Nor do the actors register beyond their Bowflex-teased physiques. The sole exception is Miss Posey, who apparently lost the memo instructing one and all not to even bother emoting. That she maintains her dignity should be enough for some acting prize this season, or at least an honorable mention.

Mr. Goyer makes a few credible attempts at humor, first with a police interrogation of Blade and later when a smarmy shrink psychoanalyzes him. In a wiser film, a psychologist wondering aloud if Blade suffered from sexual confusion would have led to a great reaction shot from Mr. Snipes.

Nothing of the sort happens here. The actor’s string of recent action movies has left his acting muscles flabby from neglect.

“Blade: Trinity” flubs even the tiny details. When the film tries to depict Blade becoming public enemy No. 1 after he kills the human, it flashes to a newspaper front page calling for Blade’s head. But it’s a Weekly World News-type tabloid, not a legitimate paper.

Mr. Snipes gets to rattle off a few expletive-laced lines now and again, as if reminding us of an attitude his character is supposed to flash between judo kicks.

All to little avail.

In “Blade: Trinity,” we’re left unmoved as to whether Blade will live to kill another day,

**

WHAT: “Blade: Trinity”

RATING: R (Graphic violence, coarse language and brief sexual content)

CREDITS: Written and directed by David Goyer, based on characters created by Marv Wolfman and Gene Colan. Executive-produced by Avi Arad.

RUNNING TIME: 114 minutes

WEB SITE: www.bladetrinity.com

MAXIMUM RATING: FOUR STARS

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