Action / Horror
Underworld
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Dir: Len Wiseman
Star: Kate Beckinsale, Scott Speedman, Michael Sheen, Bill Nighy
Cert / Year: 15 - R /2003
Format: DVD R2
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After centuries of bitter and brutal war, the vampires have the upper hand against their ancient adversary the "Lycans" (werewolves). After the death of the Lycan leader Lucian at the hands of the vampires cenutries ago, the Lycans have been beaten into a corner and hunted to the brink of extinction by the "death dealers" an elite pack of vampire warriors. The leather clad Selene (Kate Beckinsale) is one of the best "death dealers" and has fought the Lycans for centuries ever since they slaughtered her family. When one of her "hunts" goes awry and she is forced down into the underground and the centre of the Lycans realm she discovers that they are far from on the brink of extinction as she and her fellow vampires had been led to believe. On top of that, her hunt reveals that the Lycans are after a human, a mere mortal and seemingly insignificant doctor called Corvin (Scott Speedman) whose kidnap attempt she walked in on. Convinced that the Lycans wouldn't be after this man without a good reason and because he caught her eye, she disobeys the orders of her leader Kraven (Shane Brolly) and races to his home to learn more about him. Unfortunately when she gets there she and Corvin are ambushed by a pack of werewolves and their leader.... the not at all dead Lucian (Michael Sheen). After a lucky getaway, Selene races back to the vampire mansion and fearing the worst she awakens the most powerful vampire lord, Viktor (Bill Nighy) and as he prepares for the massive onslaught the vampire council is assassinated aboard their private train by a pack of Lycans thanks to the assistance of a traitor amidst the vampire ranks.....

I know what you're thinking... "Great", "terrific idea". A movie about warring werewolves and vampires each vying for supremacy in an ages old war of the undead immortals. Just the sort of film to sink your teeth into (pun intended) and please horror and action movie fans alike.... well sort of. I was thinking pretty much the same thing when I saw the trailers for this movie as they were very successful in making this film look really cool. But, unfortunately, the trailer is the best part of the film. The story premise isn't exactly an original idea as this has been covered in several graphic novels and some of the more "cult" comic titles, and with such good material already out there it is a shame that they settled on this rather unsatisfying form. So the question has to be "where does it go wrong?". A sad combination of script and direction are the main culprits I'm afraid, which is nudged along by a couple of dull and dreadfully wooden performances to add insult to injury.

Kate Beckinsale may well look quite delicious in her tight black leather outfit but she tends to camp it up somewhat in places. Her main performance seems to be a case of her moodily stomping her way hormonally through the film with her coat tails flapping behind her without her even appearing to act. This is a pity really as Beckinsale is a talented actress, and has provided some good performances in other productions but here she seems to have forsaken all her acting ability and sleep walks her way through the film. Were this a more experienced director and not her fiancÚ she undoubtedly wouldn't have gotten away with it but she is not the only member of the cast guilty of non-acting here. Whoever cast Bill Nighy as the vampire lord and master needs their head examined or maybe they were under the influence of something pretty strong, as he is totally unsuitable for this part and is guilty of one of the worst overall performances of the film. The less said about his fight scenes the better I feel, as his feigned punches land nowhere near his screen opponent and that is assuming you see past the utter falseness of it all, which ensures that he is quite unbelievable in this role. Terrible casting decisions do seem to plague this production, that and some leaden and uninventive direction by newcomer Len Wiseman .

In the film's favour (barely) however, it is reasonably well paced and does have some cool and stylish moments. That said, the pacing is ushered along by some ill advised and needless plot over-exposition and most of the cool set pieces, have in fact been done much better before and are poorly strung together here. This is a mixed bag of good and bad really but the bad points do outweigh the good and it is difficult to concentrate on the story as your mind tends to wander almost as much as the plot. Most of the action is standard by the numbers fare and the subway / underground fight scenes have been done many times before and to much better effect. The werewolf transformations are fairly well done but nothing special and certainly nothing to really grab you. It is interesting to note that even with modern special effects technology they still can't compete with the outstanding werewolf transformation of An American Werewolf in London as this still remains the benchmark for ALL werewolf movies since 1981. Come back Rick Baker, the poor saps in 21st century special effects need you to show them how it's done! There are some trippy flashback sequences, which become rather annoying and grate after the first couple of bouts, as they serve no real purpose after the first instance and yet they insist on throwing them right at you.

The "Lycans" (Werewolves) seem very much to be a boys only club, no visible females and they all strip in front of each other at the drop of a hat and run around in bestial form or wrestle (grrr). On top of which they get some of the really cheesy and terrible dialogue, which serves to make them seem quite camp and "fruity". The vampires on the other hand have an abundance of women unlike their collective adversary, but they all spend their time lounging around a huge mansion looking very "new romantic" and gothic. In fact, at times you half expect to see Adam Ant or Spandau Ballet shooting a music video somewhere in the background. Considering the vampires of this movie are supposed to have been fighting werewolves for centuries and have allegedly hunted them to the brink of extinction they do appear quite inept and are useless with a firearm. Even their weapons are lacking any technological prowess, and are just bog standard firearms with silver bullets. Surely if they had been fighting a war for so long, they would have come up with new, more efficient ways of despatching their enemy. These vampires can't even hunt properly and possess none of the vampire's legendary abilities or attributes. In fact, all these vampires do seem able to do is look pretty (mostly) and occasionally snarl when they remember to. To say that this is supposed to be a war between these two "powerful" species there isn't actually that much action and certainly no all out assault or really memorable battle scene. The werewolves (bless 'em) are always ready for a battle, they must be seeing as they spend half of the film loading and cocking weapons which don't get discharged. This sort of "fast paced action horror" has been done before and better in the case of Blade. Underworld promises so much and doesn't deliver I'm afraid and brings nothing new to the screen. That said, this film does have a certain appeal, but it will be to the less discerning moviegoers of the "Playstation Generation".

Underworld is basically a dumb and mindless mish mash of ideas, which haven't been realised to their full potential. This is what you get when you put a "prop boy" in the director's seat, churning out yet another bout of typical no brain Hollywood action that has now become the norm. There are a couple of small redeeming features, a few nicely designed set pieces and some occasionally brilliant photography but these are thin on the ground and are framed by utter dross. There are also some unintentionally funny moments, mainly at the expense of the insinuated homosexual werewolves. The uber werewolf / vampire hybrid is terribly poor and a real cop out, poorly designed and very disappointing. The "underworld" is exactly where this film deserves to be banished to. Almost entertaining, this is dissappointing and predictable and unlike the vampires in this film.... It sucks!

Tagline

when the battle begins, which side will you choose?

Rating: 1.5 out of 5

DVD
Picture 2.35:1 Anamorphic Crisp, clean image
Audio Dolby Digital 5.1 Nicely done
Features Good animated menu
Audio commentary by director and writer
"Sights and sounds" featurette
Technical audio commentary
"Creature Effects" featurette
Finch: "Worms of the Earth" - music video (don't bother)
"Making of Underworld" - featurette
"Stunts" - featurette
Series of "TV Spots"
Storyboard comparison
Series of "Vampire" related movie trailers & The new Resident Evil movie
Verdict Cool disc with plenty of extras, lots of good stuff. The Vampire movie trailers are a nice addition. Disc is better than the film really.

Rating: 3 out of 5

Reviewed by Logan Link Back Top Home