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Directed by Len Wiseman.
Written by Denny McBride.
Starring Kate Beckinsale and Scott Speedman.
Release Year:  2003 
Review Date:  10/20/03


I’m telling you, man, the Year of the Action Film has just been sweet.  Everywhere I look, there are action films, and in half of the trailers for films coming out later this year, whammo—more action films!  If you love gunfire, then this is your year.

I remember talking to my friend Terry “I’m Engaged and You’re Not” McDonnell months ago about the poster for “Underworld”, since it featured a hot Kate Beckinsale hangin’ out on a perch with a really big handgun.  Sold!  The movie isn’t quite as good as the poster, but at least the poster wasn’t a lie—Beckinsale shows that the pretty face from “Pearl Harbor” and “Serendipidity” can also carry an action film, and most of her work here is of the killing variety.

“Underworld” is a bit of a hybrid action picture—it’s part horror, part fantasy, part action shooter, and the atmosphere created by this world is intriguing if not totally ridiculous.  In the present day, vampires and “lycans” (werewolves) are at war.  In fact, they’ve been at war for nearly 1400 years, and the reasons why are not initially explained since there’s no need to—all of the characters just accept this war as fact.  As the two factions have adjusted over the years, they have finished fighting their war using primitive weapons and now fight with all manner of automatic pistols, shotguns and throwing stars.  The lead assassin for the vampires, a Death Dealer named Selene (Beckinsale), is on a routine mission to knock off some lycans when she discovers a plot by the lycans to kidnap a human (Scott Speedman) that has bloodlines to one of the warring factions.  Which one?  Why do the lycans want him so bad?

Who cares?  When you’ve got special effects, blood & gore and big guns, you don’t really give a shit anyway.  This thing isn’t going to win the Oscar, it just serves for a reason to go out and spend a quiet afternoon at the theaters.  In that regard, “Underworld” is fairly engaging, giving us enough interesting characters and action sequences to do the job.  The film drags in the middle as we learn more about the Speedman character and are forced to not watch anyone get shot for about 45 minutes; this, combined with not enough Beckinsale, killed some of my interest as I waited for the bang-up finale.  The special effects are so-so, but they don’t distract you too much; the score is nothing special; the supporting parts are carried by mostly no-name performers that won’t change their status here.

The problems that I witnessed in “Underworld” are somewhat picky, but if you watch a lot of movies they are quite glaring.  The person in charge of continuity ought to be fired for their work here; a couple of pieces stuck out to me (for example, scenes where characters walk through a torrential downpour and in the next scene are...totally dry) but one in particular was a classic “WTF!”  There’s this character named Kraven that, for the first 100 minutes of the film, speaks his English as if he were from Anytown, USA.  Then, in a long speech near the end of the film, he is absolutely speaking as if he were from somewhere in Ireland; the brogue is that thick.  Nowhere is it explained why he is suddenly Paddy McBadGuy, but there he is, Irish as the bars in Old Town, Virginia.  Oh, and don’t even get me started on the fact that during the final fistfight, you can see the rope that is carrying one of the characters through the air (instead of the intended effect, that he really IS flying).  Poor.

I was entertained, the film is good theater viewing fare and I might go see the eventual sequel, but “Underworld” ends up being a very average action film that will hold you over until the other dark vision of the present and future comes out on November 5th.

Rating:  Matinee


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Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
© 1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09