Starring Kate Beckinsale, Scott Speedman, Shane Brolly, Michael Sheen, Bill Nighy, Erwin Leder and Sophia Myles

Directed by Len Wiseman

Review by Mark Walters

I remember this past Monday watching Kate Beckinsale on THE LATE, LATE SHOW WITH CRAIG KILBORN. She was looking absolutely radiant. Her skin was glistening, and her come hither glances were enough to make me fall out of my chair. Kate looked like a delicious popsicle that I just wanted to... well let's just say she looked really good. After seeing that, I was really hoping that her new movie UNDERWORLD would be as satisfying. But alas, it was not.

UNDERWORLD begins with a leather-clad woman named Selene (Beckinsale) crouching on the edge of a building in some unnamed European-looking city. She narrates that her job is to hunt Lycans, or Werewolves, and that the resulting war may be coming to an end. Selene is one of many Vampires, who live quietly within the city, unless of course their safety is threatened. The Werewolves are led by a man named Lucian (Sheen), and though the Vampires have some fancy ways of disposing of his race, the Lycans may also have a few tricks up their sleeves. Selene realizes that they're hunting a man named Michael Corvin (Speedman), although their reasons are not yet known. Her superior Kraven (Brolly) does not approve of her careless actions, and wants nothing more than for her to serve silently at his side. While she does not approve of his wishes, another Vampire named Erika (Myles) would like nothing more that to share Kraven's bed. Apparently he was the one left in charge when the former leader Viktor (Nighy) went into hibernation. Things get hectic when Corvin is bitten by Lucian, and Selene brings him back to the Vampire house. Her fascination with him has become somewhat romantic, and though he could be a severe risk to her people, she cannot bear to just let him go. Other situations cause Selene to become suspicious of those around her, and it isn't long before she decides to wake Viktor looking for answers. However Selene may not like what she finds.

UNDERWORLD goes out of it's way to be dark, gothic and moody. The sets are dreary, the costumes are primarily black and composed of mostly leather. While the settings and people are appropriately scary, the script is just plain dull. The film was pitched as a Romeo and Juliet between Vampires and Werewolves. Unfortunately the romance aspect of the film is so underplayed that the two main characters just seem reluctantly stuck with one another. Everyone in this film just seems boring. The fight scenes have no life to them either. Even something as simple as gun battles is nothing more than people standing around shooting at each other. The action sequences are severely lacking in action. The trailers showed slick jumping and fighting, but unfortunately that's just about all the slick jumping and fighting that was filmed. Considering the plot, there is not a whole lot of excitement save for a few key scenes.  Poor Kate Beckinsale just isn't convincing as the tough Vampire girl. Her diminutive stature doesn't help her performance much either. Scott Speedman has about as much screen presence as a bag of flour. The chemistry between these two is non-existent, which ultimately kills this already weak film. Shane Brolly and Bill Nighy are the only ones that really try with their acting, but it's not enough to save the lack of performances around them. I realize this is supposed to be a dark film, but for God's sake it would be nice if I could at least see what was going on half the time! Oh, and let's talk about effects. The werewolves look like something out of AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON for crying out loud! With the advances in digital effects it's hard to believe they couldn't come up with some more impressive shots for the Lycan scenes. Director Len Wiseman (who also co-wrote the film) has failed to impress with this first time effort, though I guess he got what he wanted out of it, since he's now engaged to Kate Beckinsale. We on the other hand come away with nothing. Hard to comprehend something that looked so good could be so bad.


Images copyright SONY PICTURES 2003.

BIGFANBOY.com score - On a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being the best, I give UNDERWORLD a generous 3.

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