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2003 action/horror film about a secret war between vampires and werewolves.

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Silly and derivative

  • Apr 24, 2004
  • by
There's barely an original moment in Underworld, and sadly those parts that are derived from elsewhere in motion picture history (that is, all of it), are derived without wit or feeling for their antecedents or the genre.

I have a feeling this film would never have been made were it not for the Matrix. It basically is the Matrix, only with werewolves and vamps, and a blue wash over all the cinematography rather than a green one. So we have a hard-arsed chick in a tight patent-leather cat suit toting a sub-machine gun in each hand in a subway station, driving performance sports cars absurdly fast, performing aerial flips and other acrobatics. Only she's a vampire. With a laptop. We have perpetual rain: we have the trademark Wachowski straight-down shot of rain falling away from the camera onto parked cars in a narrow alley. There's a big final punch-up between two indestructible foes in a great big puddle.

But while it rips off the Matrix's visuals, Underworld has neither the wit - the tongue-in-cheek film noir; the fairly well spec'd cod philosophy - nor any of the style: Kate Beckinsale is no Carrie Anne Moss, having about as much sex appeal as a Tupperware lunchbox, and I'm afraid to say the all-important fight choreography *really* blows.

The bits that are original, sadly, tend to foul up the rest of the picture. To wit: pitting the "lycans" (nice try, by the way, to make werewolves sound hip. Didn't work) against vampires misses the fundamental point of both genres, which is the need-to-sleep-with-the-light-on-afterwards factor: they're supposed to GET US. And DRINK OUR BLOOD. In Underworld they're knocking six shades of hell out of each other (with guns... GUNS?? VAMPIRES WITH GUNS? What the hell is going on?), so rather than being terrifying, it plays out more like a moodily lit feature-length episode of the World Wrestling Federation. You don't really care who wins as long as there is damn good fight. But, as noted, the fight choreography is Woe Ful than Wo Ping.

There's zero chemistry between any of Michael Sheen, Bill Nighy or the other one and Kate - it's understandable, fellahs; it's hard to love an airtight plastic container.

Sophia Myles plays a decidedly plot-functional blonde vamp-girl who pops up at critical moments to push the narrative along, but doesn't end up having much to do with anything. I think she's rather petulantly sent to her room just before the climax, and you never see her again. Since she was about the most interesting part of the picture, that's a pity. For my money, Myles would have been a better female lead than Beckinsale.

A special "opportunity knocks" award should go to Bill Nighy, who's been underachieving in British TV dramas since 1979 or so, never showing up in anything of note, who finally snags a peach of a part in Love Actually, and now you can't get the old buzzard off your screen - a fading rock star there; a sleazy Tory MP in Auf Wiedersehen, Pet; a lecherous 19th Colonel in He Knew He Was Right and a now a thousand year old vampire uber-lord in Underworld, and ALL of them portrayed as exactly the same character! Even Kevin Costner would be impressed with that!

Not sure what he would have made of the rest of the film, however.

Olly Buxton

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More Underworld reviews
review by . December 03, 2009
Underworld is a film that continues to water down vampires as most of us know them. This process began with Anne Rice's Vampire Chronicles, but these stories still retained the horrific true nature of vampires even with a more relatable, human face. Now we come to this day where between Buffy the Vampire Slayer (which I did enjoy) and Twilight (hate with burning passion) we have films in the middle of this watered down vampire genre that many have grown used to. There's the good humanized vampires …
review by . November 26, 2008
I knew before even going into this movie that it would not be "pure" vampire type film. Still, to be disappointed on top of that was a big letdown. I love monsters. I love vampires. I love werewolves. I would have accepted this movie a bit more if they had left out the references to these classic fiends and created a whole different type of demonic bad guy that *should* use guns. Insistance on using these two familiar and well loved creatures of the night was nothing more than a hook to draw in …
review by . January 30, 2007
Werewolves and vampires, two staples of the horror genre, are mixed together in this action - drama set in some European country where it is always night and raining. The protagonist is Selene, a gorgeous and very athletic female vampire who is a Death Dealer; someone who kills Lycans. Lycans are werewolves, and the two races are immortal enemies. The story centers around her relationship with a man who happens to be an original descendant of the man who gave rise to both vampires and werewolves. …
review by . October 21, 2004
Wiseman very capably directed this film, based on a good script with some intriguing twists on the legends of vampires and werewolves. First of all, this is a great DVD from a picture and surround sound viewpoint, allowing you to enjoy the great special effects, stunts, and delightfully gloom sets. Seeing the Widescreen really made it more impressive than a first viewing on satellite TV. Some of the stunts (and costumes) will remind you of the Matrix.  The plot moves quickly and tells …
review by . September 01, 2004
posted in Movie Hype
"Underworld" is fun to watch, but it's really nothing more than an average sci-fi/action flick. One thing is for sure, this movie is in no way a horror film. Take any standard action yarn, replace the good guys with vampires and the bad guys with werewolves. Next, throw in a twist that bonds one of the goodies and baddies together. Finally, blend in a betrayal and a cover-up and you basically have the storyline. There's nothing new here.    The two supernatural enemies really …
review by . April 20, 2004
This is a film that certainly should stand as an example of "style over substance." All the actors (except Scott Speedman)run around obviously feeling very cool and stylish in their dark costumes, but they forget to invest any real feeling into their performances.But that isn't entirely their fault. The idea of a whole separate "underworld" co-existing with ours, wherein vampires and lycans battle each other is pretty neat, but it's hard to imagine a movie doing LESS with the concept. And Kate Beckinsale …
review by . January 19, 2004
UNDERWORLD is being horridly underrated. Those who were looking for "Romeo and Juliet" are furious. I myself found the film to be better than I expected. UNDERWORLD is an extraodinary BLADE-esque horror/thriller with similarities to both BLADE and THE MATRIX. Kate Beckinsale plays Selene, a vampire "Death Dealer". Her job is to eleminate any and all Lycans (werewolves), who have been at war with the vampires for a millenia. But her determination wavers when she meets a newly-made Lycan (Scott Speedman) …
review by . September 18, 2003
posted in Movie Hype
Pros: Some nice Effects a fresh Idea.     Cons: Action is ho-hum and you never do care for the characters.     The Bottom Line: For Diehards only otherwise catch a cheap show or wait for the video.        Perched on a ledge high above a dark, rain soaked city, a woman and her companion watch and wait. For Selene (Kate Beckinsale), this is a night like many others where she will seek out Lycans (werewolves), and eliminate them …
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Olly Buxton ()
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Member Since: Sep 26, 2009
Last Login: Dec 22, 2010 09:37 PM UTC
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About this movie


Starring Kate Beckinsale, Scott Speedman, Michael Sheen, Shane Brolly
Directed by Len Wiseman
Writers:  Len Wiseman, Kevin Grevioux

Product Description
Underneath the city streets, amid the labyrinth of subway tunnels and gothic ruins, the two most notorious creatures of the night are embroiled in an all-out war that has been going on for centuries. It is the culmination of a blood-thirsty battle between the vampires and their mortal enemies, the werewolves. Stars: Kate Beckinsale (Pearl Harbor, My Life Without Me), Scott Speedman (My Life Without Me, TV's "Felicity").
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Director: Len Wiseman
Genre: Action, Adventure
Release Date: September 19, 2003
MPAA Rating: R
Screen Writer: Danny R. McBride
Runtime: 121 minutes
Studio: Lakeshore Entertainment, Subterranean Productions LLC, Sony Pictures
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