UNDERWORLD opens as the leather-clad assassin Selene (Kate Beckinsale) stands high atop a darkened cathedral, watching people move steadily through a rainy night in London. She is a vampire, and she is hunting, but not for innocent victims. She is a “death dealer,” honoring a centuries-old feud between noble vampires and the dangerous werewolves who lurk beneath the streets of the city. Her job is to track down the remaining Lycans (werewolves) and exterminate them. Within minutes, her team identifies two large candidates following a human (Speedman) into a subway, and the chase begins.
UNDERWORLD wastes no time kicking this full-on action thriller into high gear. The battle scenes, intentionally reminiscent of THE MATRIX and BLADE movies, are loud, and the special effects are chilling. The evil werewolves have discovered a way of harnessing “daylight in a bullet.” Using new irradiated bullets, a single shot can now kill a vampire. How did they acquire such advanced technology? Why are they after this human who risks his life to save others in danger? More important, does this signify an uprising by the weakened Lycans?
Vampire warrior Selene may be beautiful, but she is all business as she hunts, fights, kills and, occasionally, flees from overwhelming odds. After watching a fellow death dealer die from the new Lycan weaponry, she pursues the answers raised by this new turn of events. She uncovers a terrifying plot, a secret alliance forged between the races. Working frantically against the clock, she must find proof of her discovery and track down this unique human before the Lycans capture him and use his blood in their diabolical scheme.
UNDERWORLD is an exciting horror thriller employing a storyline with real teeth. The complex plot is above average for this genre, and yet the movie still has an inexplicable underbite. It falls short of grisly greatness for several reasons. For example, the primarily British cast, while not as recognizable to American audiences, adds additional confusion because the viewer must sort out villains and heroes (or is it, lesser villains?) among a sea of faces. The other weakness is the movie’s own inability to sustain the seriousness in which it approaches its subject matter. Die-hard fans of this genre absolutely do not appreciate snickers and chuckling among the audience late in the film, even if the room is indeed filled with less-enthralled reviewers and fans. Ultimately, the anticipated final battle is a bit of a let down compared to the momentum the movie actually builds. Overall, however, it is a terrific action ride with decent plot-twists and genuine surprises. The violence is at times gory and graphic, but usually brief and mostly of the “video game” variety.
An intriguing and pleasant surprise is the fact that humans are not a food component in UNDERWORLD. Unlike many other movies in this genre, UNDERWORLD’s clans rely on cloned blood to avoid the frowned-upon “feeding” of regular folk. Another surprise is Kate Beckinsale’s ability to carry the movie. She falters in minor areas from time to time, such as sloppy or sluggish gun play which reveals the actress could have practiced harder, but she is quite convincing in her steely intense portrayal of the fierce werewolf hunter and vampire warrior.
UNDERWORLD manages to avoid the typical occult trappings often found in movies of this kind. It is clearly fantasy and is content to dwell there. Its setting is present day, but the human race is largely left out of the storyline. The events transpire in the UNDERWORLD recesses, sewers, and subways of civilized society.
Finally, this is clearly an “origin” movie with hopes of developing these fresh new characters in multiple sequels. Box office success will undoubtedly determine this new franchise’s future.
UNDERWORLD contains excessive violence and dark themes of paganism. It may have much in the way of religious symbolism, but it is as unsatisfying to the discerning viewer as it is to the fictional lives of its walking dead characters. Still, it is perhaps somewhat telling that Hollywood typically relegates the idea of immortality to fantasy.
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SUMMARY: UNDERWORLD is about a centuries-old feud between noble vampires and the dangerous werewolves who lurk beneath the streets of the present day city. Intentionally reminiscent of THE MATRIX and BLADE movies, UNDERWORLD is an exciting horror thriller employing a storyline with real teeth, but its excessive violence and dark themes of paganism should deter discerning viewers.
(PaPa, O, B, C, LL, VVV, N, D, MM) Strong pagan worldview about a bloody feud between immortal clans of vampires and werewolves, with some occult, moral, and light redemptive, Christian allegorical elements, as well as centuries-old sleeping vampires "re-awakened" by draining blood into their mouths and weak occult reference to the vampire clans as "covens", otherwise, fantasy story patterns itself mostly on religious themes and roles (characters accept the "gift" of immortality and revere their leaders using "my lord," acknowledge they are "lost" without them and need their "guidance") and moral man risks his life twice to save innocents and people in danger, ultimately, love and good triumphs over evil; eight obscenities (three "f" words) and two profanities; mostly "video game"-type violence, but very strong, includes vampire and werewolf bites, shootings, fighting, creatures attacking and mauling, skin boiling in sunlight, explosions, numerous death scenes, sword fightings and stabbings, blade stuck through man's leg, car crashes, brief glimpse of body parts in basement, men hanging in a torture room, much blood is shed and shown (of course), men changing into scary creatures complete with intense sound effects, doctor removes bullets and sharp weapons from man's body, and one graphic scene shows a man's head cut in half; one brief kiss, upper male nudity, some female cleavage shown, and woman in tight leather outfit, but no other sex or nudity; no alcohol; very little smoking; and, themes of lies, betrayal, revenge, loyalty, and exploring history is a forbidden practice by one clan (used by its leader to control his subjects) and it is ultimately rebuked.
GENRE: Action Thriller/Fantasy/Horror