Underworld


Directed by: Len Wiseman
Written by:Danny McBride
Starring: Kate Beckinsale, Scott Speedman, Michael Sheen, Shane Brolly, Bill Nighy
Released: January 22, 2004
Grade: B

I find it hard to believe Underworld was filmed on a budget of just $23m (as reported at the Internet Movie Database).  If so, they’ve certainly gotten value for their dollar.  Makes you wonder how they end up spending $100m or more on so many action blockbusters.  This film has some awesome looking sets, many detailed costumes, heaps of dangerous stunts, and numerous touch-ups with the special effects paintbrush.

For centuries, vampires and werewolves (known as lycans) have fought against each other in a violent war.  No one can remember how this war began but the vampires have seized the advantage with very few lycans remaining in the world.  Selene (Beckinsale) is what is known as a death dealer – a vampire charged with roaming the night in search of lycans.  On a routine evening, she sights two lycans but they escape her grasp.  What interests her most is what they were up to – they were following a human.

As humans are unknowing of this war and serve no use, this intrigues Selene.  She identifies him as Michael (Speedman) and tracks him down but he too is oblivious to why he is so important.  Her investigations will uncover a conspiracy she could never imagine.  There are many power hungry individuals involved and their plans will change the world of vampires and lycans forever.

It’s quite confusing to be honest and there’s an abundance of characters who at times are hard to differentiate.  The dark setting (with the film shot entirely at night) doesn’t help this problem.  Still, it’s better see an intricate plot rather than one which is too silly and simple.  At least screenwriter Danny McBride has made a concerted effort.

Kate Beckinsale is great as our feminine action hero.  It’s nice to see her not typecast as a romantic starlet ala Pearl Harbor and Serendipity.  Her costume happens to be a nice tight fit which I’m sure was no accident.  Not sure why she wears it but few audience members will care.  Late in the film sees the arrival of English actor Bill Nighy who looks very menacing under his make-up.  You may remember him as the only good thing in Love Actually and he’s great here also.  I had never heard of Nighy a year ago but now I see him as a promising talent.

It’s a bit of a stretch at just on two hours and could have been trimmed in places to speed up matters.  Maybe I’m just not a big enough fan of vampire movies (there seems to be so many these days) but I do admit to enjoying Underworld most of the way.