PLOT: After letting her daughter disappear into the unknown for her own safety, death dealer Selene is persuaded to return from her own banishment to train new vamps to fight against the Lycans. She soon discovers that there are few on either side she can trust, leaving her once again fighting a vicious battle in hopes to end this long standing war.
REVIEW: There are movies that fans tend to enjoy, and critics can't help but to bash. The UNDERWORLD franchise is one such series that for many has long since run its course. Yet, here we are with the latest, UNDERWORLD: BLOOD WARS. The fifth installment is exactly what you’d expect from the Kate Beckinsale starring action sequel. The actress returns to play Selene, the vampire who continually makes enemies on both sides of the Vamp and Lycan war. There is a ton of stylized action, a few bloody bits, and a group of actors bringing the melodrama to the forefront. Oh boy, do they take this stuff seriously. And while it would be hard to say that the new sequel is a great movie - it’s not - I will say that if you are still entertained by Kate and company, you’ll probably enjoy this hour and a half slice of genre adventure.
After having to send her Vamp/Lycan mix of a daughter away in the last film, death dealer Selene (Beckinsale) is once again on the run. Her usual enemies include the Lycan clan, as well as the vampire society because she killed one of her own. This time around she faces a couple of foes, including one of the head vampires, the seductive and power seeking Semira (Lara Pulver) and her boy toy Varga (Bradley James). She also must cross a merciless Lycan named Marius (Tobias Menzies) who seeks out Selene’s powerful daughter - who is only mentioned in this sequel. Meanwhile, the vampires manage to convince the powerful death dealer to return to train a group of vampires ready to do battle, but the question is, who can Selene trust? Thankfully, her old pal from the last film, David (Theo James), is around to help her on her quest to stop the war forever.
Let’s start with the positives. And for this viewer, there are enough to warrant a mildly decent review. The fifth time out, it would almost be expected that the star of the show may get a little lazy. The whole doing it over and over can get frustrating for most actors I’d imagine. Thankfully Ms. Beckinsale is still embracing this world - even with her recent critical success of LOVE & FRIENDSHIP proving she is far more versatile than some give her credit for. The actress makes all of the fight sequences look seamless, and she remains committed to the role that made her a bit of a horror icon. For me, much of the UNDERWORLD appeal is her and the surprising level of talent that they bring in for these flicks. Stephen Rea (UNDERWORLD: AWAKENING) Charles Dance, Derek Jacobi, Michael Sheen and Bill Nighy (both in the original UNDERWORLD) are all impressive thespians.
For the latest installment, Len Wiseman has stepped down as director - as he did with the two previous films - and opened the world up to Anna Foerster (Outlander). While she doesn’t attempt to offer up much that is new, she manages to continue the story rather well. At times the effects are less than spectacular, specifically with the Lycan transformations which occasionally resemble a grotesque, CG laden, Jiffy Pop experiment gone wrong. However, she does inject a little style into the proceedings and it’s still a blast to watch the brutal action at play. Again, if you are already tired of the ongoing Vamp/Lycan war, you won’t care one bit. Those still invested will probably at least enjoy what Foerster has brought to the table. Her work on Outlander certainly was a plus when it came to immersing herself into Selene’s world, especially considering the exciting universe the hit series Outlander offers viewers.
And speaking of Outlander, the main villain this time out is a deadly but charismatic Marius (Menzies). The actor is especially vicious as the antagonist on Outlander, so it's no surprise he is having a good time as the villain here. The same could be said about the seductive portrayal of Semira. Both Pulver and Menzies are relishing the fantasy element at every turn. The series has always offered up fun baddies that are so wonderfully over-the-top, and the same is true here. Occasionally the melodramatic nature of it all gives way to unintentional laughter, but it’s all in good fun. Thankfully, the UNDERWORLD series is unafraid to go to an almost Shakespearean level of drama, giving actors like Menzies, Pulver and even Theo James the chance to really dig into the characters and entertain in the ultra serious nature of it all.
UNDERWORLD: BLOOD WARS is an UNDERWORLD flick for better or worse. While I am giving it a recommendation, it is simply meant for fans that already take delight in this longstanding fantasy adventure. Others not sold on yet another sequel would probably award a much lower score. So yes, this is strictly for fans of the franchise. Even still, some may be slightly disappointed by the throwaway explanation of one of the original cast members disappearance. That said, I for one enjoyed the ride. Great filmmaking this is not, but it certainly offers those already invested a few thrilling moments. And at a slim ninety or so minutes, it is an easy journey to take. If you are still excited to see Ms. Beckinsale in the tight black outfit doing away with things that go bump in the night, you will likely have a blast. However, this latest chapter won’t change your mind if you are already tired of this continuing feud between the warring creatures of the night.