January 20, 2006

‘Underworld’ Sequel a Violent Thrill Ride

By Frank Scheck

NEW YORK -- The scariest thing about "Underworld: Evolution" is its audience.

At the first show on opening day at New York's Loews Cineplex E-Walk Friday (there were, naturally, no advance press screenings), a good percentage of the audience walked out shortly before the conclusion. It's not that they were visibly unhappy with the film, but rather because they were reasonably sure, having seen the chief villain get obliterated in the climactic fight scene, that there would be no more viscera on display.

Fortunately, they had plenty of bloodshed to satisfy them in the preceding reels because, like its predecessor, this tale of vampires and werewolves is a fairly nonstop melange of gore and violence. Opening-weekend grosses look to be substantial, especially considering the lack of new competition.

Besides the aforementioned carnage, no doubt the chief draw for fans is the ever-satisfying sight of Kate Beckinsale, as the vampire Selene, clad in the tightest form-fitting black latex imaginable.

Those with higher artistic tastes can enjoy -- or regret, depending upon their inclination -- the presence of such esteemed British actors as Bill Nighy (virtually unrecognizable) and Derek Jacobi in smaller roles.

The plot, or as much of it as can be determined, revolves around Selene and her hybrid cohort Michael (Scott Speedman) teaming up to battle the evil Marcus (Tony Curran), the king of the vampires, who is determined to free his werewolf brother William (Brian Steele) and take over the world. Much mayhem ensues.

Repeating their chores from the original, director Len Wiseman and screenwriter Danny McBride at least succeed in establishing a dark gothic mood.

Unfortunately, there's little wit or genuine suspense to elevate the proceedings above the level of a cheesy comic book. Considering the success of the first installment, one might have hoped that the creators would have taken the opportunity to provide the audience with something more than just a steady stream of ultraviolent action set pieces.

Tedium sets in early, with the repeated firing of automatic weaponry not doing much to raise the audience from their stupor. Beckinsale looks quite fetching reprising her trademark dual gun firing pose -- hell, she even looks great when half of her face is nearly burned off after exposure to the sun -- but her performance is ultimately as monochromatic as the visuals.


Selene: Kate Beckinsale

Michael: Scott Speedman

Marcus: Tony Curran

Corvinus: Sir Derek Jacobi

Viktor: Bill Nighy

Tanis: Steven Mackinstosh

Kraven: Shane Brolly

William: Brian Steele

Director: Len Wiseman; Screenwriter: Danny McBride; Producers: Tom Rosenberg, Garry Lucchesi, David Coatsworth, Richard Wright; Executive producers: Skip Williamson, Henry Winterstern, Terry A. McKay, Len Wiseman, Danny McBride, James McQuade; Director of photography: Simon Duggan; Production and creature designer: Patrick Tatopoulos; Editor: Nicolas De Toth; Costume designer: Wendy Partidge; Music: Marco Beltrami.

Reuters/Hollywood Reporter