Underworld (2003)
Main cast: Kate Beckinsale (Selene), Scott Speedman (Michael Corvin), Shane Brolly (Kraven), Michael Sheen (Lucian), Bill Nighy (Viktor), Erwin Leder (Singe), and Sophia Myles (Erika)
Director: Len Wiseman


You know, it is really not fair to compare this action horror movie to The Matrix Reloaded just because there is enough leather gear and outfits in this movie to drive PETA into epileptic seizures. This is not an Anne Rice wannabe - the vampires don't brood or give a hoot about religion. And stop with the Blade comparisons, please - Wesley Snipes can kick both the asses of Kate "Twiggy" Beckinsale and Scott "Fratman" Speedman with both his hands tied behind his back.

Underworld tells the story about the feud between the vampires (of which our heroine Selene is one) and the lycans (the werewolves in this case), with both species trying to exterminate each other using firepower (vampires use silver nitrate bullets, werewolves use ultraviolet bullets) while looking real good in black leather and black shades. There is a back story about Selene being loyal with vampire boss Viktor and disgusted with Kraven, the vampire in charge as Viktor slumbers, and this is because she believes that lycans killed her parents. Dragged into the mess is human Michael Corvin, whose blood is valuable as he carries the DNA of a powerful subspecies of vampire. Or something. Coherence isn't a particular virtue of this movie. Michael and Selene fall in love even though it's forbidden. How do I know? Selene's icy pout becomes even poutier while Michael becomes even more pensive, so it must be love.

Kate Beckinsale looks good in leather but unfortunately, the script of this movie doesn't allow Selene to do anything particularly memorable. She's supposed to be strong, but actually she isn't. She makes a lot of unintentionally stupid decisions in this movie and she can't even keep her paws on a mere human (okay, a human bitten by a lycan and is about to be one himself) for long. Ms Beckinsale has the Icy Pout of Pensiveness and the Stone Cold Glare of Anger thing down pat, but all she has to do is to walk in dark passages holding up her guns. She strikes a pose just fine, but when it comes to actually doing something, she often ends up fumbling. Scott Speedman is miscast as Michael Corvin. His fratboy looks fail to imbue his character any hint of aggressiveness - he's just a dim-witted beta fratboy whose transformation to an alpha wolf is laughably unconvincing. He does sport what seems to be an impressive erection in his pants in a captivity scene though, for what that's worth. Heh.

Of the secondary characters, only the werewolf boss Lucian stands out, and that's because Michael Sheen plays that fellow with one secret wink to the audience while he's at it.

Still, everything comes together well in Underworld during the second half of the movie. The plot is hopelessly predictable but I'm always a sucker for this kind of predictable: star-crossed loves, tormented passions, anger and betrayal, and other staples of mediocre fantasy stories do have their charms especially when they are accompanied by frenetic firepower. Despite an annoying end message that suggests that power is not earned but bestowed by one's DNA (even if the DNA thingies make you look like a skinny and very oily Hulk wannabe), Underworld ends on a surprisingly high note that has me hoping to see maybe one or two more sequels. The first incoherent and plodding half of the movie makes me wish that this movie will finish fast and free me to do something more fun like washing my hair, but at the end of the day, I find myself thinking that movie isn't that bad.

Underworld isn't the best movie around, but neither is it the worst. But it will do nicely in providing some middling moments of entertainment, I guess.

Rating: 77


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