21 Grams

Starring Kate Beckinsale, Scott Speedman. Directed by Len Weisman.
Running Time:
Rated: R

It's often claimed that Hollywood goes where other money-making films have been before. Matrix I made serous money. Matrix II made respectable money and Matrix III made the most money of the three. Underworld is a thinly disguised rip-off of the Matrix product and deserves to make no money at all.

Lychans and Vampires have been at war for six hundred years. Selene (Beckinsale) is a vampire. In the subway one evening she gets caught up in a shoot-out staged by the Lychans, who are werewolves in human clothing. She quickly realises they were not after her but wanted to capture Michael Corvin (Speedman), a human being. Selene tries to convince the corrupt king of the vampires, Karven (Shane Brolly), that something deadly is afoot, but he's too busy, trying to seduce Selene as well as secretly negotiating with the king of the werewolves, to pay much heed. The final showdown commences when Selene takes Michael into her care and her affections, and then raises the old vampire king Victor from the dead so that someone will understand the seriousness of the situation.

If we took out the vampire/werewolf references, and this film got a more interesting and better-written story, we could be watching Matrix IV. The unrelenting blue/grey look of the film, the subterranean nighttime locations, the abilities of some characters to take on various guises, and even Selene's soutane-like coat, all owe more than a passing debt to the Matrix films.

From the Vampire genre director Len Weisman has borrowed the never-ending night, the cyclonic rain, and continuous thunder and lightning.

Alas he has no real story to tell, or at least no story that interests or entertains us. Underworld is a fast-paced below par studio film with high-octane special effects, liberal sprays of bullets, and other gratuitously violent fight scenes.

The working title for this film was "Romeo and Juliet for Vampires and Werewolves" which shows us that from the start this film was an example of the sublime meeting the ridiculous. On this score it doesn't disappoint.

Fr Richard Leonard SJ is the Director of he Australian Catholic Film Office.

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