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Vampires and Lycans (werewolves) have been warring for centuries. Vampire Selene wonders why the enemy are interested in a particular human, Michael, but when she discovers a conspiracy between a Vampire traitor and a Lycan leader, she is forced to question her own origins.


Underworld's priorities are fixed in its opening shot: Beckinsale, in a body-hugging fetish catsuit, accessorised with a Matrix flared coat, is perched atop a dark city as she delivers a voiceover that fumbles out a backstory that never comes into focus.

Though it has a fresh idea in a vampires vs. werewolves war, the film suffers from one of the clunkiest scripts in recent screen history. It collapses at the basic level of establishing who its characters are and what their specific powers and weaknesses might be. Then it plunges into an endless round of repetitive fight scenes in which inventive anti-monster weaponry (hollow-point bullets with silver nitrate for wolves and sunlight extract for bats) barely inconveniences anything blasted with it.

The all-blue, night-time look is Blade II, with Prague again cast as an all-purpose city in no particular continent. Speedman as the medical no-nothing caught between fanged goodie and monster factions is copped from the first Blade, while Beckinsale might as well be Wesley Snipes for all the individuality her character is allowed. In its haste to get to the next terrific-looking bit of art direction or costuming, the film crucially fails to make us understand or care about even innocent victim-cum-monster messiah Michael, let alone the many identically-dressed, snarling fang-sporters plotting against each other all around him.

This is a film that insists characters are charismatic, mysterious, immortal and impressive then casts Shane Brolly and Michael Sheen in the roles. Beckinsale hides behind her hairstyle and when Selene has the idea of waking up the Vampires' Dracula figure leader, Bill Nighy looms into the picture in desperate need of witty lines to go with his bizarre presence. It takes its few neat tricks and does them over and over: characters falling from high places only to land on their feet like cats, rapid Hulk-out werewolf transformations, blurry flashbacks that sideline the purported heroine as an onlooker in someone else's sad story.

In the end, it's more a role-playing game scenario than a plot - although there someone would have worked out rules that make sense.

Like its heroine, Underworld looks fabulous but does everything wrong.