Blade-lite for silly young goths. Over 12? Avoid...

Released in 2003, certified UK-15. Reviewed on 24 Sep 2003 by Craig Eastman
Underworld image

Ice Cube once said that "bitches and guns are bad for your health". Throw vampires into the mix and, as Underworld proves, you're more than likely to end up slitting your own wrists. The screenplay has been kicking around tinseltown for aeons now, and finally it becomes clear why. Kate Beckinsale, who as lovely as she is has all the charisma of an ice pole, is Selene, a vampire and "Death Dealer" whose job it is to hunt down "Lycans" (werewolves to you and me) on behalf of her fanged peers. It seems a war has been raging between the two mortal enemies for centuries and now, unfortunately for you and me, it has spilled over into your local cinema.

The first point to make about the movie is that the plot is so unnecessarily complex that there seems little point in me glossing over it, not least of all because quite frankly I've forgotten much of it already. Selene is attempting to stop the Lycans from kidnapping Michael Corvin (Scott Speedman providing the necessary appeal for American audiences), a young doctor who for some vague reason carries a particular gene the hairy moon-lovers need to become invincible. Or something. Tippy and I much prefer our own version of this silly plot, revolving as it does around the Lycans stealing all of the Vampires' Tommy Cooper videos and a bloody feud raging ever since. Since this is so much more of an appealing idea, I'm going to run with it purely to keep me from abandoning this review in disgust.

Selene discovers she and Michael both share a passion for Tommy's unique brand of self-deprecating humour and soon fall in love, much to the annoyance of her Vampire elders who cannot comprehend the sheer disgrace inherent in such an unholy union. As such she struggles to both protect Michael and prevent the ruling Vamps from imposing a curfew on her activities. To this end she awakens a very old, very dead Vampire friend of hers called Viktor (Bill Nighy), who cements the films stupidity by making his first words after emerging from a thousand year sleep the immortally stupendous "what's all this rrrrruckus?". She explains the situation to Viktor who is both A) very pissed off at being awakened a century too soon and B) convinced the Lycans will have recorded Sportscene over the tapes by now. He suggests Selene simply buy more Tommy Cooper videos, but when she tells him they're only available on DVD these days the old coot flies into a rage, espousing his preference for the "warmth of picture" granted by old analogue recording methods over newfangled digital media.

Almost choking on a Jammie Dodger at the sheer audacity of both the Lycans and the recorded media industry as a whole, Viktor tells Selene she'd better shoot everyone who looks even vaguely like they might be a Werewolf, even if it means men with two-day stubble. A guy who was in Snatch gives her some bio-luminescent bullets with little or no explanation which they adapt to contain silver nitrate instead. Off she goes in search of Michael and some bloke called Lucian (Michael Sheen) who I'm sure was supposed to have done something heinous at some point either before or during the events of the film. Some folk get bitten, some get clawed, very few get shot and nothing blows up (a refreshing plus-point in an otherwise barren desert of ideas). I fell asleep during the last twenty minutes or so, but Tippy assures me someone got their head lopped off and someone else turned blue. I think it was blue anyway.

Underworld image

This is a film where everyone looks beautiful, graceful and dresses like every goth in the world would like to think they look. Indeed the only social subset I can imagine gleaning any kind of enjoyment from this will be the great unclean mass of Limp Bizkit-loving shite spread on the sole of my shoe that is the modern goth movement, loving as they do any source proving that beautiful people in black leather look great. A wakeup call: you are neither beautiful nor cool. You are smelly, unclean and disgustingly wrapped up in the idea that somehow your conformance to the most mass-market fashion trend of the decade somehow means you are expressing your "individuality". You are not an individual. You are what I tell you to be, and you do what I tell you to do. I command you to watch this film constantly, day in day out, for no reason other than that it will prevent any decent, clean, ordinary folks from accidentally being able to buy a ticket. That is your role in life. Do not stray. I command it.

Anyhoo, this truly is a mess of a film. The plot is sheer drivel, the acting is uniformly bland, the action is sparse and uninspiring and Beckinsale just cannot carry a lead. Sorry love. Your pictures in the paper from the UK premiere did indeed prove you are a beautiful specimen, but your credentials have been broadened not a jot by this ill-advised outing. It is perhaps telling of the calibre of this movie that the most hype generated has been by Beckinsale's dumping of co-star and long time lover Sheen in favour of director Wiseman. It would seem from the resulting debacle that far too much time was spent by the pair getting jiggy, and far too little actually discussing what the attributes of a good film are.

Underworld does nothing that hasn't been done infinitely better before, and does it badly. This is the most vapid kind of supposed action vehicle you can imagine. Tailored to cash in on a current fashion trend this is marketed at a defenceless demographic; ie. impressionable teens who crave guns, leather, chicks wearing both and a nu-metal soundtrack that will give anyone with a modicum of taste a headache. If anyone had made any attempt at creating an involving action movie, as this could so easily have been, I might have shown more consideration and professionalism in my reviewing of it's merits. Since it has none, boasting merely a complete lack of respect for even the people it's aimed at, I have no choice but to award it the minimum allowed outwith the Baise-moi ruling. I fell asleep for Christ's sake.

From my island of hatred and loathing I award this 1 out of 5 Disko Thangs.

Len Wiseman
Cast list:
Kate Beckinsale (Selene)
Scott Speedman (Michael Corvin)
Shane Brolly (Kraven)
Michael Sheen (Lucian)