Gothic castles, beautifully bleak noir cinematography, heart-pounding action and fiendishly confident characters played by a colourful cluster of recognisable scenery-chewing British actors – all the ingredients you need, you would think, for a smashingly entertaining and adrenaline-inducing vampire action romp. What a shame, then, about the lukewarm and largely lumpen results.
Well, you have to applaud the Underworld series for at least getting two things right: presenting the cinematic world with an-all-too-rare kick-ass female action hero in Kate Beckinsale’s always watchable Selene, and for affording British vets like Bill Nighy and Charles Dance the opportunity to wield flowery but largely inert dialogue to try and make it sound slightly enthralling.
This fifth instalment in the long-running vampires-versus-werewolves series sees the recently wronged Selene once again team up with David (Theo James) to try and resolve the eternal conflict between the warring creature clans and defeat new hybrid Lycan leader Marius (Tobias Menzies) before he finds her daughter and feasts on her revitalising blood.
There’s a memorable F-bomb snigger-inducing moment that’s indicative of the tonal uncertainty, shortly followed by some contest roaring that’ll make you sneer furthermore, but leave you unsure if the hilarity is indeed intended. When it comes to Underworld, sadly the sharpness of Blade is merely an unobtainable dream.
Despite being derogatory, action-splattered affairs, with five films in 13 years, a firmly dedicated fan base and no signs of slowing down, you have to come to the conclusion that the clearly critic-proof series is as relentlessly immortal as the majority of its characters. Those same fans should at the very least receive an award for their staying power and while you’re at it give another to Beckinsale for being as watchably kick-ass as ever. It’s just all strangely uncompelling viewing for the rest of us.