Wonder Reviews
Underworld ***1/2
Early Oscar Wish List 2003
Movie Quotes You Forgot Were Awesome
2002 Top Ten
2002 Oscar Wish List
2003 Oscar WIsh List
Movies That Suck
All Time Favorite Movies
Favorite Links
Contact Me
Current Reviews
Critic Mumbo Jumbo
People you Should Know
Cool List

Starring Kate Beckinsale, Scott Speedman, Michael Sheen
Directed by Len Wiseman

Beckinsale in all her sassy glory, guns in hand.

     I have begun to question my outlook on life.  What prompted such deep and profound psychological examinations?  "Underworld." 
     It wasn't the plot or anything.  I just have to wonder what it means that I am so taken with films that dwell in the dark, both in setting and general storytelling tone.  "Underworld" fits the bill both ways and I got a big kick out of it.
     "Underworld" sets its tone immediately after the title appears and disappears.  Selene (Kate Beckinsale), a sassy vampire of the highest order, is perched upon the top of a very gothic architectual monstrosity.  She begins narrating the films set up in a calm, cool manner.  Her speech is icy and lengthy, employing mythological terminology like "death dealer" and "lycans."  It seems that Selene, a vampire, is a warrior in a never ending battle with lycans, or werewolves, or so she says.
     She's skilled with firearms and throwing blades, one of the best there is.  On this particular perch, though, she's busy watching two lycans trail a human.  This peaks her interest because lycans rarely bother to deal with humans.  She leaps off of her crouching stance and onto the streets below.  There, or more accurately, in the subway station, she engages in a battle of bullets and pizazz with the two heavies.
     The human, a hospital intern named Michael Corvin (Scott Speedman) is, or at least the lycan nation hopes, the answer to their problem.  A creepy lycan scientist who has more in common with a mouse than a vampire has been trying to find a member of a legendary bloodline.  The lycans are betting all their marbles that Michael's blood is the best of the bunch.  What it means to them and how they intend to use it is best left to your imagination, seeing how the story revolves around this mystery.
     The film is rooted in a dark, gloomy atmosphere that engulfs the film like a damp sweater, but I liked it anyhow.  The film relies on this atmosphere to capture the attention of its audience and keep it until the final credits roll.  It'll happen for some; others will want to return to sunlight immediately.
     But the film packs more than a brooding nature into its two hour runtime.  There's the history of a thousand year feud and a "Romeo and Juliete"-esque love story to run through.  It will be a tedious journey for those who do not buy into the film's reality right off of the bat.  Those who relish the detail of the slowly paced second act will most likely enjoy the conclusion as well. 
     Besides the genre melting pot the plot employs, there are borrowed essences.  The film owes a great deal to films like "The Crow," "The Matrix,"  "Blade" and its sequel.  The wardrobe, setting and action learned from these modern trendsetters is apparent throughout "Underworld." 
     If I was to fault the film, it would be for this reliance on other films and the poor acting of a major character.  The lack of originality can be forgiven, but the terrible acting of Shane Brolly as the vampire leader Kraven cannot.  His constant failing at every instance his character must deliver his lines is too glaring to be forgotten.
     Other than Brolly, I found the film's cast to be quite suited to their roles.  Beckinsale has in Selene her first heroine, and she does the part justice.  Her grasp of her character's demands are evident and she manages to just about declare herself the next female star in the making.
     Scott Speedman first showed his acting prowess in the WB series "Felicity."  His low-key approach to the character of Ben Covington has been dropped in favor of the dude in distress mentality his "Underworld" character shows.  'Tis true.  The traditional roles are reversed.  It is Selene who is the calm, brave one while Michael runs about with a terrified look on his face.  
     Several of my friends and fellow moviegoers viewed Michael as whiny and useless, but I will heartily disagree.  I found Speedman to be quite capable and the character to be one with realistic responses to otherworldly happenings.
     Underworld takes its own reality so seriously that I was obliged to take it just as seriously.  Even when the film swings more toward the corny, it does so with such dramatic conviction that I cannot view it as anything less than a well done supernatural thriller.  And it is a thriller, though the trailer plays up the film's action to the point that one would expect tightly choreographed action set pieces.  And the action is there; there's just a whole fantastical reality to go with it.

errors in grammar due to site builder limitations