Director: Len Wiseman
A war has been raging on between trendy-wear vampires and rock and roll werewolves for centuries. And when a hunky mortal (Speedman) is slapped in the middle of it all, the bullets fly, the black leather on Selene’s (Beckinsale) butt glimmers and the mangled bodies hit the pavement. YEEHAWWW!
"I am a Death Dealer, sworn to destroy those known as the Lychans. Our war has waged for centuries, unseen by human eyes. But all that is about to change."-- Selene
"Underworld" is not a perfect film. It’s not the second coming of werewolf or vampire movies either. But even as its random faults reached out of the screen to backhand me like Tina Turner in her "Ike days", I still couldn’t help but turn the other cheek and ask for more. What’s wrong with me? Do I have self-esteem issues? Let’s find out.
By frame one of this stylish pitbull, I knew I was going to get into its groove swiftly. It grabbed me from the get-go via its hard-hitting badass opening action sequence and continued pinning me on the style-whore-dance-floor throughout with its all-around polished look and industrial techno-laced score. I was very much enraptured by this baby’s coating-- be it on a directorial, production value (loved that train), soundtrack, cinematography or set design standpoint. If blue laden images, awesome sets tagged with strong Gothic tones (think "The Crow") and kinetic camera shots talks to you, strap on your can of Guinness and get ready to guzzle! Talk about an addictive aura! I just couldn’t get enough of gawking at this film. At some point, it didn’t even matter to me what was happening within the plot, I was just totally in lust with the look of the picture. Yes, I’m that guy!
But what truly differentiated "Underworld" from its slick action horror kin is that it finally did what should’ve been done a long, long time ago in a horror’s fan world far, far away…and that’s putting vampires and werewolves in the same cinematic ring (Howling 6 Freaks doesn’t count). The dynamics created by having these two classic creatures duke it out in one outhouse really made it all happen. Much like a blonde cheerleader cheering you on as you bang her sister, it just felt so damn right! And to make matters better, the special effects communicating these beloved baddies were top notch, especially when it came to the werewolves. This puppy put out a delicious concoction of CGI and prosthetics and I went bonkers for the man to lupine transformations. Sure, they felt a tad too CGI sometimes, but on the whole, I was mucho impressed. I relished the attention to details (I loved the whole rib cage thing) and it definitely beat the ho-hum we saw in "American Werewolf in Paris"! As for the vampires, well, we’ve seen this before but it still rocked. They looked like Gucci models with pale faces, sipped blood out of wine glasses and had fangs. They got the job done, I wasn’t complaining.
Now let's talk action! The flick went "all out" in the beginning, remained mostly dormant for its middle part to finally go hog-wild for its conclusion. The action set pieces felt déjà vu taking into account "The Matrix", "Blade" or any other slow motion, black clothing whoring action/sci-fi horror flick. The familiarity didn’t bother me none though, I LOVE this stuff! Two things on the physical brawls if I may: 1) Both clans sported some fairly gnarly weapons, designed to capitalize on the enemy species’ weaknesses. That led to some yummy messes. Nice touch there, and 2) Why was everybody such a lousy shot? I mean, is it so hard to hit a damn werewolf? They’re like 7 feet tall! COME ONE! In this movie, nobody can shoot for shit! They made Elmer Fudd look like a perfect marksman!
Semi-bitching aside, let's face it, you haven’t lived until you’ve seen 3 werewolves crawling on walls and Kate Beckinsale mowing them down with grace and panache. Which leads me to the sizzling Kate Beckinsale herself. Thank Marlon Brando above (and he’s not dead), she was the one doing most of the “close-up” gun play! There should be a law against being so photogenic! The camera simply loved her to pieces (so did the dude behind the camera I hear---see BULL'S EYE section of this review)! Her intense stares, her luscious lips, her long hair dangling in her face, her black leather pants….DAMN! I, for one, could watch her shoot 2 guns at the same time in slow-mo for weeks on end until the cows came home to become Big Macs on my plate. She was an anime fiend’s wet dream.
On a story level, the flick showcased some great ideas (crossbreeding…you bet!) and at times, its between species drama pretty much acted as a metaphor for real life interracial relationships, bringing up similar themes to the table. Fun stuff! The soap opera-like nature of the plot also kept me intrigued and interested in the happenings. Let’s just say everybody and their corpses have some skeletons popping out of their closet left and right! I felt like I was watching “Horror Dallas” and half expected the undead J.R. to stroll on in to claim he fucked somebody’s wife doggy style. Which brings me to the film’s faults…
By lingering so much on the intricacies of the plot and going overboard with the exposition, the middle section of the movie suffered to the point of me saying “Get on with it already! I get it!” But this baby’s worse sin was that it ignored what should’ve been the heart of this tale, what should’ve made me feel all mushy: yes, the love story. All I’ve been hearing about this flick through its marketing is that it’s a supernatural take on "Romeo and Juliet". Now although I felt some “Shakespearian” like vibes when it came to the two families' conflict, I didn’t feel the lovers, loving for shite. It didn’t help that the character of Michael was beyond underdeveloped...who was this schlep anyways? All I know is that his hair was often blocking his eyes and that he had bulging biceps. The love story was shamefully half assed. It takes more than a slow motion stare and a peck on the lips to convey that two people are in love. COME ON! They had something good there, if properly handled, the romantic angle would’ve elevated the stakes of the film. Maybe they’ll get it right in the sequel.
But when all was blown away and chewed to death, "Underworld" came through as a whole. I was into it most of the way, enjoyed the storyline, dug the leads and more importantly, the visuals gave me a “Ron Jeremy Approved” boner. Crawl under this world and go wild! WARRRRRR!
Think soft R (for a horror fan anyways). We get bloody slashes, gushes, bullet wounds, bullets coming out of wounds, people having nasty reactions to chemical weapons and a head sliced in half. Okay.
This was Kate Beckinsale’s (Selene) movie; I just couldn’t take my eyes off her. She played it low key and let her swaying British accent do the rest. Scott Speedman (Michael) did what he could with what he was given. The man looked good and brooded like a champ. How many lines did he have anyways? Like 10? Shane Broll (Kraven) looked the part and played pissed off well, I just wish he would’ve aimed for more levels. Here his role was always on the same plane, peeved. That’s it. Got a tad tiresome. Lighten up! You’re a vampire! Michael Sheen (Lucian) worked well, his wide eyed performance emanated an intensity and a stillness that won me over. He looked quite scary at times (maybe he was thinking of the director bonking his wife?) Bill Nighy (Viktor) had these sporadic ticks that cracked me up, other than that, he was an effective creepy presence.
T & A
The ladies get some shirtless dudes and we hombres get Kate Beckinsale in skin tight black leather prancing about. That was more than enough for me!
Wiseman took the MTV route and it had me by the balls! The whole film is bathed in bluish hues, sporting high energy, awesome camera moves, eerie play with sounds and slow motion up the glory hole! Those shots inside one’s body blew my rocks off!
I fervently lapped up the aggressive techno/industrial score. We also get some heavy guitar stuff!
"Underworld" was somewhat of an odd experience for me in that I kept picking up on its screenplay flaws, but remained engrossed nonetheless. The film's fly aesthetic, Gothic flavor, hypnotizing Beckinsale and the “double take” soap opera like antics kept me riveted. Yes, the middle section of the flick lagged and more emphasis should’ve been put on the lovers, but on the whole, this flick turned me on. I want a sequel for this one. You hear me Beckinsale?! I WANT A SEQUEL! And your lips for breakfast!
This film cost $20 million to make.
Kate Beckinsale and Michael Sheen (Lucian) have a daughter named Lily and were married while shooting "Underworld". That’s until Kate hooked up with director Len Wiseman and dumped Sheen’s ass while the shoot was still on. Must have made for an interesting time on set.