Starring; Denis Leary, Joe Mantegna, Annabella Sciorra, and Larry Bishop
Director: Roger Christian
Johnny Crown (Leary) is back on the streets after seven years in prison. Armed with a new name and a new outlook on life, he sets about tracking down everyone who had even the slightest involvement with the death of his gang-boss father. Along the way, he picks up the enigmatic Frank Gavilan (Mantegna), and, despite Gavilan's initial insistance that he doesn't know Johnny, their shared history--and shared destiny--is gradually revealed. Will Gavilan be added to the ever-growing number of dead bodies that Johnny is leaving in his wake, or does Gavilan fit somewhere else on Johnny's "Things To Do Tonight" list?
"Underworld" is a strange movie. The back cover on the DVD compares it to "Pulp Fiction" and "The Usual Suspects", but, aside from a never-ending stream of banter and fitting into the general category of a crime film, it resembles neither of those films. In fact, drawing that comparison does the movie a disservice... but given that Johnny Crown's name is mispelled on the back cover, I doubt the copywriter even cared enough to watch the entire movie.
This is a film that is ALMOST good... and although I am giving it a Six rating, it's on the verge of a being a Five. I think that another few passes on the script, or maybe some more work in the editing room, and it could have been a Seven or Eight. That same might also be true if the two main actors were capaible of... well, more acting. I enjoy both Leary and Mantegna very much, but both are actors of limited range and neither really stretch themselves here.
Parts of the movie would have made more sense if it had been clearer sooner that Johnny and Frank really HAVE known each other since childhood; as things stand, a number of things seem very baffling, because Frank's assertion of not knowing who Johnny is seems genuine, while Johnny's continued talk about wanting to help Frank and being "the best friend ever" simply come across as so much insane, threatening chatter. (Mantegna being the rock-solid, always down-to-earth guy, and Leary always seeming like he's ready to snap and carve up a bus full of nuns with a knife.
The vagueness of Frank and Johnny's relationship is only part of what makes this film confusing to watch. There are a number of characters whose actions are so extreme that even rampant psychosis can't explain it; if the characters really were as crazy as they come across, they would have been dead long before they appeared on screen in the film. Some of it (like the going-ons at a nightclub called the Blue Danube) feels more like a parody of this sort of film noir/crime drama film than seems right for what surrounds it. Parts of the ending have the same sort of parody feel to them.
The one thing that runs through all of "Underworld" is a strange, dreamlike quality. The randomness with which things happen and the characters move from encounter to encounter, the bizarreness of how just about every character in the film behaves (even bedrock Joe Mantegna... because he's almost too calm and unemtional through everything), and the lack of apparent consequence to anything that happens... it all adds up to a film that has a very unreal quality about it. And that unreal quality ends up making the film worth watching, despite the uneveness in how it treats its subject matter.
I give this film a cautious recommendation. It's not a great movie, but it's worth seeing for the odd sense of dreaminess it manages to invoke throughout. I think it's worth seeing if you like crime dramas or quirky movies of any genre. (It's also worth it if you like Leary's standard schtick.)
Basically, it's about a vampire girl, Selene (Kate Beckensale), who meets a human/vampire/werewolf guy, Michael (Scott Speedman), and they have to get through a vampire vs. werewolf war alive and together.
It honestly looks like someone just woke up one day and went, "Wow! What a great idea for a movie! Now how can I screw it up? Hmmm..." It's a study on taking a potentially great movie premise and then systematically making it as awful as you possibly can.
[b]Disappointment #1: Romance[/b]
Arranged in the previews to look like a sweeping, love-will-prevail-even-though-I'm-a-bat-and-you're-an-ugly-dog-that-walks-on-its-hind-legs romance, this is the ultimate dissapointment. The one kiss in the movie is a cousinly peck on the lips and turns out to be a trick, anyway. That confused me more than anything. I hit my knees on the living room floor and screamed, "WHYYYYYYYYYY! [email="Mother-f@$^#*$"][i]Mother-f@$^#*$[/i][/email]!!!!"
[b]Disappointment #2: Acting[/b]
The lead woman in the movie, Selene, has exactly one facial expression throughout the entire movie: "I am [i][u]so[/u] [/i]about to kick your ass, b!tch." Expected to be a major vampiress expression, yeah, but a little off in a "romance" scene. The lead male does a little better with two facial expressions: "I'm gonna [b][i][u]die[/u][/i][/b]!!!" and "What the f***?" until he's transformed into a super-beast at the end of the movie and gains his most impressive power: the ability to look, for 5 minutes at a time, like he's not about to pee his pants.
[b]Only Saving Grace: Michael Sheen[/b]
All three points I gave to this movie, I gave to Michael Sheen's chief werewolf, Lucian. He pretty much carried what little there was to the movie on his shoulders with the only likeable, three-dimensional character. (Plus I finally got my romance through him when it was revealed that he'd been involved in a forbidden love of his own.)
[b][u][size=4]Overall Rating: 3/10[/size][/u][/b]
[i]Rating guide: [/i]
[u][b]10:[/b] Classic, Epic, Perfect.[/u] If you don't listen to/read/watch this then your life and all of your anscestors' lives were a waste.
[u][b]9:[/b] Freaking Awsome.[/u] If you don't listen to/read/watch this then you have missed your purpose in life and will have to be reincarnated as a squirrel to learn the lesson you would have gotten from it.
[u][b]8:[/b] Pretty Damn Good.[/u] If you don't listen to/read/watch this, you're missing out, cause it's pretty cool.
[u][b]7:[/b] Good, But Not Great.[/u] If you like this sort of thing, you'll have a good time with this.
[u][b]6:[/b] Well... .[/u] It's got some good parts, but it's basically disposable.
[u][b]5:[/b] Wow, That Actually Kind of Sucked.[/u] Just read the rating. That's all you need to know.
[u][b]4:[/b] Bad.[/u] Completely worthless.
[u][b]3:[/b] Really, Really Bad.[/u] Oh my God, that was awful. Counseling is reccomended.
[u][b]2:[/b] Terrible.[/u] You'll lose hours of your life that you'll never get back. Counseling is mandatory.
[u][b]1:[/b] Whaaah!.[/u] You'll lose valuable brain cells that you'll never get back. Counseling won't help you any more.