Underworld

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The ViewWellington Review

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Review byMatthew Turner16/09/2003

Four out of Five stars
Running time: 121 mins

Well-plotted, stylish sci-fi action thriller that steals liberally from The Crow and The Matrix – occasionally trashy but still a lot of fun.

Surprisingly, given its basic set-up, Underworld is not derived from a comic book or a novel – instead, as screenwriter Danny McBride insists, it came about via a vampire movie fan and a werewolf movie fan holing themselves up in a room and bashing out a few genre-blending ideas.

It could have been a complete disaster, but the result is an enjoyable action thriller that’s both original and derivative. (Gossip-hounds may also like to note that Kate Beckinsale left her co-star Michael Sheen for director Len Wiseman after filming was completed.)

Surprisingly Good Plot

The plot, unusually for this sort of thing is surprisingly good and fairly complicated. Kate Beckinsale plays Selene, a 'Death Dealer', which basically means she dresses like Trinity, leaps off buildings a lot and shoots ‘Lycans’ (Werewolves). She belongs to a tribe of Vampires who have been at war with the Lycans for centuries.

She has her own problems with the tribe, including the unwanted attentions of the Jason Patric-alike de facto leader Kraven (Shane Brolly) and Jealous Blonde Vampire Erika (Sophia 'New Kate Winslet TM' Myles).

Anyway, when Selene realises that Werewolves have been shadowing a human doctor (Scott Speedman), she gradually uncovers a sinister plot to create a super-powered werewolf / vampire hybrid…

To be fair, although Beckinsale looks Mighty Fine in her leather-catsuit and trenchcoat ensemble, she occasionally looks a bit awkward when she's shooting at things and she's not entirely convincing in the scenes where she's meant to be all no-nonsense and tough. She’s not exactly miscast, but her performance definitely wobbles a bit. Speedman, too, is a bit of a nonentity – he looks like a bargain basement Owen Wilson clone – and ends up shouting lines like “What the hell is happening to me?” several times.

Terrific Supporting Roles

However, the supporting cast are terrific, particularly the seemingly ubiquitous Michael Sheen as Lucian (the leader of the Lycans) and Bill Nighy as Viktor, the overlord of the Vampires. Nighy is perfectly cast because there's something vaguely cadaverous about him at the best of times (even under tonnes of latex, he still looks exactly like Bill Nighy) and Sheen gives an impressively complex and surprisingly moving performance.

Brolly is a little dodgy (he seems to have about three different accents) but Myles is good, though her character mysteriously disappears towards the end of the film.

The look of the film owes a lot to The Crow with its dark, rainy anonymous city aesthetic, while many of the stunts are straight out of The Matrix. However, it still works and there’s a terrific climactic fight featuring Bill Nighy ‘kicking ass’ that puts the Wolverine fight scenes in X-Men to shame and is worth the price of admission alone.

The main problems with the film are the occasional Dodgy Acting Moment, the slightly incongruous use of mobile phones, Selene’s slightly tedious voiceover and, worst of all, the awful Industrial Metal Soundtrack that appears to be part and parcel of movies like this. Similarly, the film wastes a couple of its better ideas, like the discovery of ‘ultraviolet bullets’.

That said, for a two hour film, it's hardly ever dull and it kicks into action almost immediately, as well as delivering some unusual surprises in the plot. File under ‘Future Cult Movie’. Recommended, for more than just Shallow And Obvious Reasons.

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Underworld
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Content updated: 27/09/2017 01:46

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