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Underworld

dir: Len Wiseman
[img_assist|nid=1012|title=Sure she looks cool all in leather holding two guns. Even I would look cool all in leather holding two guns. And I ain't cool.|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=308|height=450]
Read here, my people, read and weep...

It is certainly not worth the wait. Released here in Ostraya about four months after its Stateside release, instead of maturing in the interim like wine it has festered like a dead possum in some particularly inaccessible part of your roof. And whilst it's not so bad that it made me want to punch other patrons for being as dumb as myself for buying a ticket, it didn't leave me with a feeling of deep joy in my underpants.

Speaking of which Kate Beckinsale is certainly cute, and isn't too a bad actress, and despite the other critiques that I've read she isn't the problem with this film. She sells most of the scenes where she's
supposed to look nasty (in a hot way) and when she's emoting and stuff. Of course she mostly looks ridiculous in the action scenes, having absolutely no range of mobility in those tight fetish outfits. When she's running in so-called 'action' scenes she's looks about as convincing a mover as Stephen Hawking with none of the acrobatics that he possesses in comparison. But she's okay.

Not good enough to salvage the film, unfortunately. When people talk about films that are all style and no substance, this film should be used as the benchmark. It's not that there isn't a plot, in fact there is way more plot than a film like this deserves. There's so much plot in fact that the audience is sitting there thinking "Er, this is supposed to be a vampire film, so do something entertaining, cocksuckers". The plot has all the energy, verve and interest of a particularly unlikable and senile grandparent that no-one visits. With
good reason. Certain screenwriters need to learn that simply having a long and boring plot doesn't give your story substance or significance. This isn't The Hours or 21 Grams for the love of criminy.

This film has a plot that thinks it's way more engaging and interesting than it actually is. It's not so much complicated as cumbersome and lazy. There are large slabs of exposition which didn't really work organically in the overall scope of the film, with characters talking in dull monologues about matters we couldn't
possibly care about just to pad out the story, such as it is.

The action scenes, except for a few seconds at the very end, are dull, unimaginative and certainly uninspired. People keep saying this is a Matrix rip-off except with vampires and werewolves, but frankly having a girl in leather shooting guns isn't enough to warrant the worthy label of 'rip-off': that's giving the film too much credit. In all of her gun scenes the character that Beckinsale plays essentially stands still there shooting. She rarely moves. When she does she either casually saunters forwards at a leisurely pace or backwards. There are no gun play acrobatics and certainly nothing to distinguish the action here from any other action film set in a more mundane locale. Like one of the Beverly Hills Cops films from the late 80s - early 90s. Surely
everyone remembers Beverly Hills Cop 4 where Eddie Murphy as Axel Foley questions his sexuality in the back of a car with the help of a friendly neighbourhood she-male?

That was a classic, that was. And it had better action for those people that like that sort of thing. This film on the other hand has less going for it.

This is the plot, summarised as succinctly as possible for those of you that are very busy people: in some alternate reality Earth that's pretty much the same as Prague on our Earth and has Bacardi Rum
(product placement at film's beginning), vampires and werewolves (here called Lycans) have been at war for centuries. Our hero Selene, played by the very bony but still edible Kate, is a Death Dealer, a vampire
in the front lines in the war against the hairy ones. Interestingly, all the Lycans in the film are male, and dress like homeless people and live in the sewers. All the vampires are of course beautiful, elegant and very well-dressed and swan around in lovingly decorated mansions drinking blood from crystalware. It's Class War all over again.

Anyhoo, Selene spots some hairy men, tries to kill them. They're following a human guy around called Michael that Selene thinks is hot. Blah blah blah, in the end everyone except Michael and Selene are essentially dead. It takes two fucking hours to get there. Two hours? That's 120 minutes that I could have spent more productively in front of a pokie machine at the casino. That's 7000 seconds that I could have spent more enjoyably sitting in a bus shelter listening to an ancient crone of a woman with Alzheimer's tell me over and over again about her son Emmett who went to Port Moresby after the War and came back to Ostraya a headhunter in more ways than one.

It certainly wasn't the most enjoyable time of my life. It would be untrue to say that I was bored. I wasn't. It's not a boring film. It's just not a particularly good one.

For those of us that see every vampire film that ever comes out, this is certainly at the same high level of quality that 99% of the others are. In other words, it's mildly entertaining, with plenty of lovely outfits, but no lasting significance or enjoyment. Like having sex with someone who's almost passed out. It's firmly aimed at the contemporary idea of what goth is, which is an entire movie filmed exclusively with blue filters to give it that 'goffic' look and with industrial techno in place of actual mood, atmosphere, themes or ideas.

People run around a lot. They're running from some people, running towards other people, none of it is really clear. Many times people leave a place only to go straight back, with nothing achieved in the mean time. So we get to see our apparent heroine driving to a mansion, then driving away from the mansion, then walking back, then driving away from it again in a different car, then coming back, it just goes on and on. If there is a better example of cumbersome storytelling, please, someone send me the proof.

Also, within this gothic metropolis, it's always night and it's always raining. They talk about sunshine and the Lycans use it as a weapon in bullets against the vampires, but there's not a single day shown. If it is an alternate reality Earth, then why does a character say "Jesus Christ!" at one point? Also, where was all the fucking swearing? No swearing, no nudity, no sex, no hearts being ripped out or arms ripped off. It's hard to get enthused about a vampire movie that's about as graphic as an episode of Rugrats or the Telly Tubbies, except with less of the gender politics.

Every new entry in the vampire genre makes up its own rules. Here they have heartbeats, can drown, have reflections, can cry but don't fly. All of the mystical aspects of it are discarded in favour of a bunch of leather clad people swaning around with big freakin' guns. Vampires and Lycans aren't supposed to attack humans, and vampirism and lycanthropy is transmitted as a virus in the bloodstream. This plays a part in the overall story. But don't start getting all wet, it's not that compelling.

The other main lead in the film is called Michael, played by Scott Speedman. He's not too bad, for someone whose claim to fame is that he played a character on an awful television show called Felicity. Now
Felicity was a truly terrifying show. Little in this film is as frightening, as mortifyingly soul crushingly terrible as that unlamented cancelled series. Thus by comparison Speedman has a much easier job here. He basically has to look all hunky and be all chained up. In a way he's the film's damsel in distress. Until the very end
where he turns into Oprah Winfrey or something, I'm not sure I might have dozed off at that point.

There are no laughs in this film, it is played utterly straight with no tongue in no-one's cheeks. There is only one laugh, at the very end during the climactic battle, but I was the only person laughing in the cinema, so maybe it wasn't that funny. Most of the characters do reasonably okay bumping into the plot as they stagger around the various sets. Two characters in particular were fucking awful, Selene's current boss Kraven played by Irish actor Shane Brolly is particularly awful, almost to the point of being unintentionally comical. Almost. Also, Selene's sire and mentor Viktor is terrible, deeply fucking bad. Bill Nighy is badly miscast in the role. I got the feeling he had no idea where he was most of the time, and seemed to be playing it like it was dinner theatre. He constantly fucked up his line readings and looked more confused than Liza Minelli on her
wedding night.

The one actor that stands out is Michael Sheen, who plays Lucien, the leader of the Lycan clan. He actually invests some heart and pathos into a role and in a film that certainly doesn't deserve it. He deserved to be in a much better film than this.

Overall, let me put it this way: this film isn't as good as Blade, but is better than Blade II. That's damning with faint praise indeed. Figure it out based on that highly erudite and scientifically accurate scale. Still, they set up an inevitable sequel in the last moments of the film, so who knows, maybe in the sequel they'll manage to put some decent action in it. It's a radical idea, I know, for an action film.

So keep waiting, you crazy kiddies, with your multiple facial piercings and your complete Cradle of Filth record collections, that perfect vampire movie is still just over the horizon, because sure as shit, this film isn't it.

Still, it's a better film than Matrix: Revolutions, so how bad can it be? :)

5 rip offs of scenes from Equilibrium, Resident Evil and The
Crow
out of 10. Ripping-off the ripper-offs, one day Hollywood's going
to disappear up its own anus.

Rating: