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#314 - Underworld
Len Wiseman, 2003

A war breaks out between vampires and werewolves as they fight for control of an ordinary human who may hold the key to an ancient prophecy.

I really shouldn't get my hopes up over vampire-themed action films - if I didn't like the much more acclaimed Blade, then what chance did this have? It had an interesting premise, sure - vampires versus werewolves in an appropriately dark and violent film, what could possibly go wrong? Unfortunately, a lot. I know that The Matrix was an awesome film that redefined the action genre with its slick leather-clad aesthetic and fancy slow-motion gun violence, but when the first action sequence of your film involves not only both those factors but an awfully familiar-looking grimy subway setting (except tinged with blue instead of green), then it doesn't get one's hopes up. Thus begins a fairly stolid excuse for a supernatural action thriller as our badass protagonist (Kate Beckinsale, who I was surprised to learn was actually English considering how I could have sworn her accent was slipping at times) gets caught up in the search for a human (Scott Speedman) that the "lycans" (read: werewolves) and the vampires both want to get a hold of for their own nefarious reasons.

Despite the somewhat twisty narrative and promise of cool action, Underworld ultimately fails to deliver on either count. Most of the acting - save for esteemed British thesps like Bill Nighy and Michael Sheen (who play the head vampire and head werewolf respectively) - is so incredibly wooden I can hardly believe it even made it into a movie. The effects work on the lycans hasn't aged well at all, but the moody Gothic atmosphere that the rest of the film generates still holds up alright. Much of the film skews far too much towards the implausible without being awesome enough to compensate and just ends up blowing past without leaving much of an impression. Underworld is most definitely a disappointment, but now that I've seen it, it's hard to imagine a better story coming out of such a premise - even if it did, it probably wouldn't have the thrilling excitement to back it up.