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Underworld: Evolution

Something Murky This Way Comes

Underworld: Evolution is one of the darkest films in recent memory, not so much in terms of its subject, but in terms of its appearance. It exists in a world of shadows, darkened caves and underground fortresses, ideal for vampires but depressingly murky for the rest of us. I mean, sure, it's the underworld -- which, in this case, refers to some unnamed eastern European city -- but couldn't there be any cheerful shades of green, yellow or orange? There's plenty of red, though.

The latest installment in the Underworld saga is all blood and guts, usually spilled onto the floor during one of its endless action sequences. But that, too, should come as no surprise. Constant mayhem is to be expected in a movie about an age-old war between vampires and werewolves, and Evolution doesn't disappoint in that respect. It is loud, flashy and aggressively paced. And did I mention loud?

The plot exists, it seems, only as a framework for more gaudy graphics and breakneck animation, but here's a recap: Selene (Kate Beckinsale) and Michael (Scott Speedman, a virtual ringer for former Creed frontman Scott Stapp) are wanted by the legions of the undead for the murder of Viktor (Bill Nighy), the nefarious vampire king. Selene is a vampire herself, while Michael is a unique hybrid of wolf and bloodsucker. Together, they form an unholy alliance to take down the patriarchs of the rival clans, a couple of charming gents named Marcus (Tony Curran) and William (Brian Steele).

It may sound simple enough, but those unfamiliar with the Underworld comic series will undoubtedly be confused by director Len Wiseman's convoluted storytelling. At some point, the filmmakers must have sensed this, because Evolution is loaded with backstory that attempts to make sense of the proceedings, but to no avail. Major characters are alluded to, introduced and then killed off in rapid succession, with no discernible bearing on the plot. Motivations are rarely, if ever, explained. More than an hour in, and the pieces of a story finally begin to fall into place, but by then my attention had already been captured by a different kind of red: the inviting glow of the exit sign.

Rating: 2 out of 5 stars