Russell Baillie writes about movies for the Herald

Movie review: Underworld Blood Wars

Kate Beckinsale and Theo James star in the film, Underworld: Blood Wars. Photo / Larry Horricks
Kate Beckinsale and Theo James star in the film, Underworld: Blood Wars. Photo / Larry Horricks

Say this about the Underworld movies: Like the vampires they are populated with, they sure do stick around. This dull heap of action-fantasy mediocrity, one which wants to be Game of Fangs, is the fifth.

The first one to put Kate Beckinsale in coloured contacts, retractable incisors and painted-on pants was in 2003. So that makes the franchise more deathless than Twilight or television's True Blood. Though they were based on books, they had an ending.

But this series feels based on the perpetual time-loop of a videogame - there were attempts to release one in 2004, it tanked - and so long as the movies keep hitting the reset button, back comes "Death Dealer" Selena (Beckinsale) to, um, deal some more death. Possibly at a discount for volume.

James Faulkner (center-left) and Lara Pulver (center-right) star in the film, Underworld: Blood Wars. Photo / Larry Horricks
James Faulkner (center-left) and Lara Pulver (center-right) star in the film, Underworld: Blood Wars. Photo / Larry Horricks

Here, she's still trying to keep the werewolves from the door. She's sent her daughter, the one with the magic pure blood due to her mixed-monster parentage (oh do keep up), a long way away to keep her safe.

Not even Selena knows where she is. But that won't stop those lycans and at least one senior treacherous power hungry vampire (the one in the evil stepmother black bondage frock, no the other one ...) hunting her down and assuming Selena knows where she is.

Well that's the story buried in a vast amount of exposition, a first half hour which suffers from low blood sugar, and a finale that suggests that if this was a videogame, it would be a pretty stupid one. Having two characters who are impervious to bullets standing there machine gunning each other is really a waste of joystick calories and action movie decibels.

Theo James (center-left) and Bradley James (center-right) star in the film, Underworld: Blood Wars. Photo / Larry Horricks
Theo James (center-left) and Bradley James (center-right) star in the film, Underworld: Blood Wars. Photo / Larry Horricks

Hey, it's great that Beckinsale has made a go of it as a female action star and this is the feature debut by cinematographer Anna Foerster who maintains the dark, shiny, iffy special effects Underworld house style established by Beckinsale's ex and series creator-producer Len Wiseman.

And it's excellent too that the Underworlds keep giving employment to venerable British actors like Bill Nighy in the first three and Charles Dance in four and five, allowing them to do their best Christopher Plummer impersonations.

Best Christopher Plummer impersonation prize in this one goes, however, to the guy playing boss lycan Marius. That's Tobias Menzies, Outlander villain and, like Dance, a Game of Thrones old boy.

Kate Beckinsale stars in the film, Underworld: Blood Wars. Photo / Larry Horricks
Kate Beckinsale stars in the film, Underworld: Blood Wars. Photo / Larry Horricks

There's something very GoT about Blood World. There's a castle above a wall of ice in a frozen north populated by a group under threat by hairy hoards. There's a white-haired warrior princess with supernatural powers. And there's a bloke who's a good fighter who may or may not have royal blood and be the one true king.

If a drunk but wise vampire dwarf had turned up I would have shouted "housie". But I did nod off for a few minutes, so I might have missed him. Maybe he'll be in the next one.

But the only sequel Blood World gave me an urge to watch is the one to What We Do in the Shadows.


Cast: Kate Beckinsale, Theo James, Alicia Vela-Bailey
Director: Anna Foerster
Rating: R16 (Graphic violence and horror)
Running Time: 91 mins
Verdict: What they keep doing in the shadows remains still bloody boring.

- TimeOut

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