March 4, 2006

Movie Review: Ultraviolet

I first became aware of Kurt Wimmer's directorial skills a few years back with a little film called Equilibrium. That film quickly became a favorite and one that I recommend to action fans to this day. Almost everyone I mention it to has never heard of it, but after they see it, they realize why I like it so much. Now, four years later, Wimmer is back with another dose of heavily stylized action. Is it as good as his last outing? Yes and no.

Ultraviolet is set in a future where there is an offshoot of the human race called Hemophages, a sort of enhanced human with greater strength, speed, and a taste for blood. They, for all intents and purposes, are vampires. In this future, these vampires have become a hunted part of the community, a disease worthy of extermination. Our heroine is Violet, a vampire. She has been charged with obtaining a weapon developed by humans to be used against her people. Upon finding out the truth behind th weapon, she has a change of heart and takes on a new mission. This mission puts her on a head to head collision course with Daxus, the head of the research team looking to eliminate the vamps. Her decisions also put her on the hit list of other vampires who don't share her sentiments.

The film doesn't even make it to the 90 minute mark, and it feels as if it has been all chopped up, story and action wise. This runtime and feel of many of the sequences has me smelling an extended DVD release down the line. Despite this choppy feeling, I really enjoyed this movie. It is full of amped up, stylized action, corny dialog befitting the the low budget look, and special effects that aren't so special.

It probably sounds like I was bad mouthing the film, but it is quite the opposite. Some lower budget films fall beneath the wait of attempting to gain credibility, while other lower budget films embrace their status. It is those films that embrace their budgetary constraints and try to make the best film they can, that overcome the perceived "limitations." Kurt Wimmer and his cast and crew have put a lot of energy into making this film, and it shows. Energy goes a long way in helping the suspension of disbelief, it is not a cure all, but it can make a failure into a winner.

Ultraviolet is a blast. The action is completely unrealistic, but it works within the confines of the created universe. Kurt Wimmer developed a fighting style for Equilibrium called gun-kata. He has brought that style with him into this film, with electrifying results. The style incorporates martial arts and gun fighting, a fighting style that has a fluidity to it. Milla Jovovich brings a soft beauty into a hardened world, and an edgy grace thriving in the fight, living to save herself, those she has chosen to protect. Not settling on the defensive but taking the fight to anyone she can get her hands on.

I could see from the first few minutes that this is going to have a love it/hate it reaction. I could feel it in some of the other moviegoers around me. The shoddy effects, bad acting, bad dialog, all combine to make the film lesser to them. To me, like I said above, they were put together with love.

The acting is not spectacular. Most of the characters were wooden caricatures spouting outlandish dialog. Milla Jovovich, while great to watch in a fight, had a single expression the entire film. Nick Chinlund's Daxus is your typical maniacal baddie, but he brings much verve to the one sided role. William Finchtner shows the most humanity in his supporting role as Violet's friend, and fellow vamp, Garth. Rounding out the primary cast is Cameron Bright, in his second movie in as many weeks (he is also in Running Scared), I bet he gets these roles because he is good at looking like a little creepy kid, he is the most expressionless little guy you'll ever see.

Kurt Wimmer wrote and directed the film. This guy is becoming a master at staging outlandish action sequences, I would love to see what he could do with a sizable budget. As good as his action is, his writing leaves a little bit to be desired. His tale of these future vampires and fear of disease is intriguing, but it came across as muddled and confusing at times. On top of that, it is derivative, you will recognize bits and pieces lifted from other films. Whether this is homage or plagiarism, I leave that to you to decide. I just think there could be magic if you could find the wright screenwriter to pair with him and give him a budget to play with.

Bottomline. I liked this movie, plain and simple. It may not be the most impressive film, it may not even match his last outing, but what it does is create a playground in which to drop some cool action. Milla Jovovich looks absolutely amazing, and is convincing as an action star. This is a lot of fun.

Recommended. *** / *****

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