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"Underworld will suck your blood and leave you howling at the moon. In the good way. It's monsterrific!"



The Masked Reviewer

This Underworld (2003) isn't the same as the Underworld (1927) of old, a prohibition-era silent gangster film (or, rather, a silent film about the prohibition era).  Neither is this Underworld (2003) the Underworld (1985) based on a Clive Barker story, starring Denholm Elliot.  Another Underworld that this Underworld (2003) is not, is the Underworld (1996) starring Denis Leary, Joe Mantegna, Annabella Sciorra, Abe Vigoda, and son of Joey Bishop, Larry Bishop (who also wrote it).  There are probably many other Underworlds that this Underworld (2003) isn't, but we're here to talk about what it is.

And what it is, is cool.

Firstly, the film stars Kate Beckinsale (Pearl Harbor, Serendipity).  Yowza.  She's a great lead, very intense, very beautiful, very compelling.  Now, for those of you who don't know, this is a vampire movie.  And a werewolf movie.   Two great monsters that taste great together.  If you're expecting a lot of Shakespearean quality dialogue, you're in the wrong show.  But, given the setting of action-vampire-werewolf movie, Kate Beckinsale is the best you'll see.  Not to mention the best looking.

There are some other actors in the film too, including Scott Speedman ("Felicity"), Shane Brolly, and Kate Beckinsale's real-life husband Michael Sheen.  They're all fine.  Shane Brolly (who plays Kraven) vamps it up (so to speak) a bit too much, but hey -- it's a movie about vampires and werewolves.  They're better than you'd expect in a movie about vampires or werewolves, so there you go.

Some of the trailers try to make Underworld look like an action and a horror film.  It's clear that the filmmakers tried to put in a few frightening bits and cat scares, but the horror was not at all scary.  The parts that are set-up to make you jump don't work, but there were only a handful. 

Fortunately, the action in the film works very well, so you don't miss the horror.  There will be unavoidable comparisons between Underworld and The Matrix films.  They both feature similar special effects -- slow motion, wire work -- and lots of long leather jackets and furious gunplay.  However, Underwolrd succeeds in creating a fairly interesting story that's simple enough to follow.  It also brings new life to the fight scenes, and while there's not much that you haven't seen before in other films, it's stylish enough and put together well enough that it creates excitement and holds interest all the way through.

Underworld will suck your blood and leave you howling at the moon.  In the good way.  It's monsterrific!

Now, there are a few picky points, which the Masked Reviewer is sworn to mention to you, the loyal viewing public.

First of all, the vampires and werewolves run around with guns.  Presumably, the plain old vampires and werewolves aren't badass enough, so they shoot each other.  And, for super beings, they sure have rotten aim.  You'd think that being immortal would afford them enough time to learn to hit the broadside of a barn with a machine gun. 

Secondly, many of the vampires talk with a slight lisp.  Maybe it's because you never really get used to those fangs.  Perhaps that's what the war is about...the werewolves were laughing at the vampires' speech impediments.  Words can hurt, people.  And, words can hurt vampires, apparently.

The only thing that's likely to make people squirm in this film (other than some blood and guts from the fight scenes) is that they show a guy getting injected by a needle.  The Masked Reviewer has never understood why that's so terrifying for so many people, but whenever there's a close-up of a needle going into an arm, you can hear a lot of "eeew"s.  So, for those of you who hate hypodermics, be warned that there are, oh, about six close-ups of injections. 

Careful viewers may notice that the vampires' eyes change color when they get mad.  This is a nice feature about being a vampire...it's like having two built-in mood rings.  Although, vampires aren't traditionally known for keeping their feelings bottled-up.  If you piss off a vampire, you'll know it.

Another nice feature of the film is that they don't appear to have relied entirely on computer graphics for the werewolf transformation scenes.  It seems to be some combination of computer graphics and latex (like American Werewolf in London).  It's a nice look. 

The wirework in Underworld is okay.  It's the best wirework in the last couple of years.  They do a few interesting shots, and don't rely on it too heavily. 

As for the plot of the film...unfortunately, one of the trailers for the film completely ruined the "big surprise" about the plot.  If you haven't seen any trailers, you might enjoy the first half of the film more by avoiding them.  The trailer matter-of-factly lays out the only real surprise of the film.  Stupid trailers.  Yet another reason why the Masked Reviewer should be your only source for movie information, ever.  In fact, don't even bother seeing the movies, the Masked Reviewer will take care of that for you.  Or not.

Underworld ends with a clear set-up for a sequel, and hopefully it will come along soon.

Fans of The Matrix and films like Blade will enjoy Underworld.  If you're not big on action, Underworld won't hold much appeal.  It's sort of like Once Bitten meets Teen Wolf, only with lots of violence and visual flair.  It's kind of like Romeo and Juliet, only the Montagues are vampires and the Capulets are werewolves...or vice versa.  In any event, it's fun.


Expectation from the Title: After a freak laboratory accident, Dr. Xavier Titzlinger is transported to a strange land ruled by dainty panties, evil jock straps, friendly boxers, and super intelligent bras.  Welcome...to Underworld.

Mother's Rule (Always Say Something Good About Everything):  Kate Beckinsale is so pretty, she should be in movies.

The Pros: Fun, good action, interesting story, well acted.

The Cons: Not very many original ideas, no nudity.  Hard to decide who to root for.


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