Sunday, 10 June 2012

Movie Review: UNDERWORLD - AWAKENING


I feel sorry for Kate Beckinsale; one of the world's most beautiful women, stuck in some of the world's ugliest movies. She's the star of the vampire-vs-werewolves Underworld movie's solely because she looks hot in skin-tight cat-suits, but it's such a waste of a once-promising young actress. Having skipped the third movie entirely (a mind-numbing medieval prequel starring her low-rent doppelganger Rhona Mitra), Beckinsale's back for the fourth. At this point, a career path into hardcore pornography would be less embarrassing.

Thing is, Beckinsale's become an English version of Milla Jovovich (who likewise headlines bad films written/directed/produced by her husband and intended for 14-year-old boys), although Beckinsale's other half, Len Wiseman, has moved onto bigger things since birthing this franchise. I just can't believe times are so tough that Beckinsale has no option to resume these movies, which surely means one of two things: (1) she genuinely loves the "character" of Selene and her joyless life-story; or (2) she gets no other work offers without the benefit of nepotism (next up, female lead of hubby's Total Recall remake).

In Underworld: Awakening, day-walking vampire "death-dealer" Selene (Beckinsale) now exists in a world where the world's aware that warring vampires and werewolves exist, and have taken steps to purge them with door-to-door military-style raids. Amazingly, actor Scott Speedman shows some taste by refusing to appear in this movie for longer than necessary, so his character of hybrid vampire-lycan Michael Corvin is dispatched very early. the movie fast-forwards years by by putting Selene on ice, and having her wake up to discover she has a daughter, Eve (India Eisley), who fills in for daddy by being this movie's sacred being everyone's chasing and marvelling over. Stir into the mix a deadening amount of action sequences, where Beckinsale skids and leaps around various corridors firing twin hand-guns, avoiding slobbering beasts and occasionally encountering bigger beasts that might as well be termed "End Of Level Bosses". A video-game is exactly what this is, at the end of the day, only without any interaction. If you derive pleasure from watching XBOX cutscenes, maybe you'll enjoy this—but even then you'll have to be a sadist because the action's so unimaginative and boring.

Kate took her school prefect duties very seriously
It's just very dispiriting watching movies like this, which don't have anything fresh or interesting to say about anything. It pains me to see actors like Stephen Rea and Michael Ealy slumming, too, but the biggest sting came from seeing Charles Dance essentially reprise Bill Nighy's role as a head vampire. Thankfully he's being put to better use on HBO's Game Of Thrones right now, so I just hope this movie paid a few month's rent.

And at least it's a brief viewing commitment, at 88 minutes, although you'll be clock-watching so early it still manages to drag like it's a two-hour epic. If only there was something here that didn't feel like you've seen it a thousand times before, but there isn't. It's cynical filmmaking put together by talentless hacks and a studio who thought Beckinsale's vinyl butt + 3D would equal mega-bucks. But for a woman clad in full-body PVC, there isn't even a single sexy or arousing sequence to please that particular fan-base. Maybe even Beckinsale put her foot down about love scenes now she's a mother, and the fact this sequel doesn't give her a love-interest probably didn't help.

If you like your movies tasteless and mechanical, with nothing to latch onto in terms of a compelling story or character... you'll be a pig in muck watching this. (At least until Paul W.S Anderson releases something.) Underworld 4's just 88 minutes of gloomy people shooting at dark creatures, in ugly concrete buildings where fluorescent lights can't stop flickering, and where (3DTV permitting) the occasional knife, whip, and ninja star will threaten to escape into your front room. Enjoy.

directed by Måns Mårlind / written by Len Wiseman, John Hlavin, J. Michael Straczynski & Allison Burnett (story by Len Wiseman & John Hlavin) / starring Kate Beckinsale, Sandrine Holt, Theo James, Michael Ealy, India Eisley, Stephen Rea & Charles Dance / 88 mins.
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