Underworld

**

Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

An internecine war between vampires and werewolves is good news for the special effects department, but hardly exhilarating for anyone else.

Basically, this is a power struggle between different factions of the undead, as well as within the confines of the vampire nation. The back stories are stuffed with names that don't mean anything and words like death that are difficult to conceive within a community of immortals.

Everything takes place after dark, which gives the film a monochromed look. Kate Beckinsale wears a figure-hugging wetsuit and black leather duster coat. She strides through empty rooms looking purposeful, with guns in her little hands. She's not exactly royalty, but is right up there in the body of the kirk, intent on killing as many werewolves as possible.

She's beautiful, tiny and slight. With her posh English accent, she doesn't have the presence to pull off an action heroine role, like the girls in Charlie's Angels, and this absense of personality leaves her character in a limbo, where sex appeal is not the same as charisma.

The story concerns a med student (Scott Speedman), whom Beckinsale fancies, despite being human, and whom the werewolves want to convert for genetic reasons. It's difficult to tell the baddies from the baddies. The blokes have long dank hair and a laddish look in their eyes. The babes are either tomboys, or voluptuous schemers. No-one wanders out into the bustling city, looking for lunch.

The battles are fought in subway trains, or in dungeon corridors. The vampire killers change into An American Werewolf In London when the going gets tough and they literally eat their enemies.

When the sleeping lord of the vampire kingdom awakens prematurely to settle the squabble and declare, "This coven has grown weak from decadence," he turns out to be none other than your old friend Bill Nighy, who specialises in weak-willed toffs, or failed writers from a dysfunctional privileged class.

With more imagination, this could have been a Brit/US take on Blade 2.

"Mark my words, soon you'll be seeing things my way," the vamp champ announces.

Sadly, it doesn't come close.

Reviewed on: 24 Sep 2003
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Underworld packshot
Vampires and werewolves battle for supremacy.
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Director: Len Wiseman

Writer: Danny McBride

Starring: Kate Bekinsale, Scott Speedman, Shane Brolly, Michael Sheen, Bill Nighy, Erwin Leder, Sophia Myles

Year: 2003

Runtime: 121 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: US/Germany/Hungary/UK

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