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STARRING
Kate Beckinsale, Michael Ealy, India Eisley, Stephen Rea, Charles Dance
DIRECTED BY
Bjorn Stein, Mans Marlind
SCREENPLAY
Danny McBride, J. Michael Straczynski, John Hlavin, Kevin Grevioux, Len Wiseman
MPAA RATING
Rated R
RUNNING TIME
88 Mins.
DISTRIBUTED BY
Screen Gems
DVD EXTRAS
Filmmakers' Commentary; Blooper Reel; "Heavy Prey" music video; 5 featurettes

 "Underworld Awakening" Review 
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Which Kate Beckinsale do you prefer?

You can choose victim Kate in the current action thriller Contraband or you can choose kick-ass Kate in her latest go around as Selene in Underworld Awakening, a film that takes place several years after she has been imprisoned and as she discovers upon her release that humans have learned of the existence of both Vampires and Lycans and begun a campaign to annihilate them all.

Oh wait.

Are you ready?

Yep. You sure?

Okay. So, ahem, we're at war again.

Len Wiseman (Beckinsale's real life husband) is gone as director, replaced by the co-direction of Mans Marlind and Bjorn Stein. As a result, this latest Underworld is far more relentless in its action and stylish in its presentation (though it should be noted that the advertised 3-D is a waste and virtually indistinguishable).

This time around, Selene's primary companion is Eve (India Eisley), whose connection to her is rather obvious a few moments in but, perhaps because of its obviousness, is never questioned by Selene. The two, once they've escaped, eventually find themselves holed up with a vampire coven (led by Charles Dance) but, when it comes down to it, virtually every other aspect of this film's story is irrelevant as everything serves as a set up for action sequences that for the most part do nothing to actually serve a story. There are repeated references to the search for Michael (Scott Speedman), who is never found but is occasionally eyed through the film's obnoxious use of flashbacks and expository references from films past.

As a film critic, it's already difficult to find ways to creatively document the cinematic experience of a completely mediocre film. It's even more difficult when that film is one of a series of increasingly unwatchable sequels. Underworld Awakening isn't an unwatchable film, but it is an unnecessary film that does little to justify its existence other than to give Beckinsale's fanboys yet another glimpse of her in the tight black leather outfits. The film really misses the presence of Bill Nighy and Michael Sheen, who managed to capture the exactly right tone for the film in their performances. Without them, the film feels uneven and often off-kilter.

With its reputation and existing fan base, it's entirely likely that Underworld Awakening will capture this weekend's box-office crown. But, on a weekend where virtually every film is flawed yet entertaining this is one film that is simply flawed.

© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic   

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