1 stars


11th July 2006

Allow me start this review by saying right off the bat that Ultraviolet is already the frontrunner for one of the worst movies of the year. I should probably qualify that statement; I suspect there have probably worse movies released already this year, and there will probably be dozens of terrible movies released over the next few months, but I refuse to actually see obvious tripe like Date Movie, Big Momma's House 2, Scary Movie 4, or Tyler Perry's Francis Ford Coppola's Bram Stoker's Madea's Family Reunion to confirm that suspicion, so it looks like we have a winner by default.

Ultraviolet is the latest film from writer/director Kurt Wimmer, whose previous film, Equilibrium, is much more fun and enjoyable than it had any right to be, despite a shoestring budget and the fact that it features a heavily recycled story that covers territory previously explored by other, much better writers (and the Wachowski Brothers). Boasting frenetic action sequences, superb cinematography and a (mostly) talented cast led by Christian Bale, Equilibrium is a solid little B-movie. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for Ultraviolet, which is simply terrible and manages to fail on just about every level.

Ultraviolet is set in the late 21st Century and tells the story of Violet (played by the frighteningly thin Milla Jovovich), a member of a subset of genetically modified humans known as Hemophages, which are essentially vampires with cooler clothes. Like all Hemophages, Violet boasts enhanced speed, stamina, and strength, but she is also cursed with fangs and a bloodlust: it's not actually clear on exactly what Hemophages can and can't do, or why it's bad to be one. The Hemophages are at war with humanity, specifically a fascist medical organization known as the Archministry, led by the sinister Daxus (Chinlund). Violet is despatched to recover a weapon that could prove to be potentially lethal to their race, but discovers that the weapon is a 10-year old boy named Six (the ubiquitous Cameron Bright).

The title sequence features mock comic book covers, a technique which is, I believe, supposed to inform the audience that the film is little more than a live-action super-hero comic book, and that we should treat it as such and not take it seriously. Unfortunately, Wimmer chose to focus only on the worst aspects of the super-hero genre i.e. mindless violence, terrible melodramatic dialogue and a scantily clad "bad girl" -he managed to leave out everything that makes them enjoyable. There are countless moments throughout the film that scream out to the audience, "Look at this! She's jumping a motorcycle through a helicopter and shooting the pilots and gunners and now it's exploding behind her as she crashes through the window of a building! Isn't that frickin' cool?" But it's not. It's just very frustrating, because there are plenty of cool ideas sprinkled throughout, but none of them are ever explored or developed. The film is filled to the brim with action, much of it of the type described above, but the majority of it is simply scene after scene of Violet entering a room and then proceeding to beat the crap out of dozens of guys (the film suffers from 'Joss Whedon Syndrome'). As a result, the action, while shot well, is never once exciting or engaging, it's dull and repetitive.

Even when the film actually does manage to slow down, it still isn't engaging. There are moments that are filled with little character moments that are probably meant to be powerful and touching, but because the characters are never fully developed we just don't care about them. Everyone in this film, from the tough but sensitive bad girl Violet to the enigmatically quiet but precociously intelligent Six, to the evil bureaucrat Daxus, every character in the film is a complete cipher; there's no substance to any of them. They are all simply there to fill a particular role. As far as the special effects go...well, to coin a phrase, these effects are not very special. The numerous CG environments and stunt people are completely flat, totally lifeless, and utterly unconvincing, and they don't blend at all with the actors or the live action sets. In fact, there were a number of sequences in which Milla Jovovich was filmed in such a way that she didn't quite synch up with the obviously computer animated background, and thus the illusion that Wimmer was attempting to create was completely shattered.

If there is one bright spot in Ultraviolet, it is Nick Chinlund. His performance is delightfully over-the-top, and you can tell that he was having loads of fun chewing the scenery and stealing just about every scene he is in. At the end of the day, however, Ultraviolet has absolutely nothing to recommend. It's a cold, sterile, lifeless film that manages to squander whatever potential it might have had within the first five minutes.

More:  Action  Sci-fi  Stinkers
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