Saturday 14 January 2012

From the archive: "Underworld"

Twenty minutes into the anaemic horror flick Underworld, rubber-clad vampire hitwoman Kate Beckinsale bursts into her superior's quarters and declares: "We've got serious problems". That's right, Kate: nobody's buying you as a gun-for-hire, and your film looks like an Evanescence video, directed as it is by someone who clearly believes The Crow: City of Angels is The Greatest Movie Ever Made. Beckinsale's "death dealer" is caught in the middle of a nocturnal class war between werewolves (distinguishing characteristics: once were slaves, bags under eyes, live in the sewers, tendency to go out in the rain without umbrellas) and vampires (pervy evening wear, greater screen time, tendency to lounge around country houses as though auditioning for the orgy scenes in Eyes Wide Shut). Bland doctor Scott Speedman - last seen as Kurt Russell's rookie partner in Dark Blue - is the human being the convoluted backstory dictates Beckinsale must fall in love with, and the two opposing sides clash over.

Director Len Wiseman goes for a wearying one-note seriousness that suggests Buffy the Vampire Slayer never happened: casting Bill Nighy as head vamp is inspired, but then to bury his already cadaverous features under latex and ask him to submit to the general po-facedness just seems a terrible waste of an actor usually capable of waking even the most jaded viewer from eternal slumber. Beckinsale is the other sinking point: when it comes to action-girl tough talk, she sounds like a nanny reproaching an especially petulant child; this Goth Mary Poppins not only looks as though she's never handled a big weapon in her life, but would surely be mown down in the thirty seconds it takes for her and her PVC raincoat to twirl balletically for the camera every time her foes crash through a door. It should have been a clash of the titans, a Dracula vs. Wolf-Man for the 21st century; instead, the dank, subterranean Euro-locations and cheap CGI lycanthropy remind one only of An American Werewolf in Paris. Underwhelming, to say the least.

(September 2003)

Underworld screens on Channel 4 tomorrow (Sunday) night at 11.25pm.

No comments:

Post a Comment