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Ultraviolet (2006)
Writer and director: Kurt Wimmer

review by Steven Hampton

From the maker of Equilibrium, this sci-fi action movie, starring Milla Jovovich, brings more than a hint of The Matrix sequels and Underworld to its futuristic scenario about vampires faced with a biotech 'cure' - to be administered by the government's top megalomaniac scientist. The vampire underdogs (apparently the persecuted victims of a blood phage) are thereby faced with extinction unless their glamorous super-agent, Violet Song jat Shariff (Jovovich), can steal the anti-vampire prototype and reveal its secrets.

Since our fantastic heroine is a daylight-tolerant vampire, gifted with acute sensory powers, superhuman fighting prowess, and a limitless supply of armoury downloads; she's like - every cyberpunk fanboy's fantasy girlfriend, for sure! Nagging questions about exactly how much of Violet's impressive weaponry is real, or just virtual, makes the verisimilitude of CGI backgrounds largely inconsequential to any critical analysis of Ultraviolet as a movie. This is pure comic-book style mayhem of almost bloodless violence in a seemingly video-game reality, where magnificently choreographed 'gun kata' combat scenes leave roomfuls of anonymous guards sprawled in obviously dead poses, while über-cool Violet survives the frequent onslaughts of countless disposable stormtroopers, without even a mark or smear on her colour-coded hair and costumes, let alone a scratch on her fashionably bare midriff.

After the expository voiceover waffle, 'character' introductions and first bout of gravity defying samurai-gunslinger athleticism, Violet frets over her unquestioning loyalty to 'hemophage' comrades, entertains doubts about their supposedly laudable cause, and opens the stolen sample case (shaped like the body of an electric guitar!), to discover it - quite preposterously - contains a child, Six (Cameron Bright, Godsend, Birth) who might be the saviour or executioner of all vampires. As transparently evil Ferdinand Daxus, TV actor Nick Chinlund happily chews up whatever scenery is 'actual' on the predominantly green-screen sets, while Garth, the only vaguely well-intentioned scientist in this intentionally 'bad' sci-fi flick, is admirably portrayed with emotive vigour by William Fichtner (notable as the humble blind guy in Zemeckis' Contact, and lately Sheriff Tom in TV series, Invasion), and emerges as the only believable character in the whole plot. In short, Mr Fichtner is the only performer doing any acting here.

Milla Jovovich, designer action-starlet soldier regrets not wearing shatterproof armour today

Despite numerous tightly edited fighting sequences, competent digital artistry, and several moments of evident delight for the filmmaker in creating throwaway visuals designed to astonish genre cynics (there's a broken pair of sunglasses that spin up into rooftop airspace to form a pair of 'inverted commas' against the skyline - how's that for glorious irreverence?), Ultraviolet is startlingly only in the degrees of its shiny dystopian blandness. Yet, in a glaring example of the thematic absurdity that runs throughout American director Kurt Wimmer's movie, there are unimaginatively emblematic buildings imposing their future-totalitarian regime's will-to-power upon urban sprawl like fascistic jackboots crushing the anthills of social freedom. Human elements are disappointingly few and far between. The supporting cast are uniform in that they cannot easily be distinguished from mere background details. Work of this sort is absolutely commercial SF picture-making, blessed with a veteran Hong Kong cinematographer undaunted by the requirement of grandiose martial arts' wirework, sanctified by an unobtrusive score needing little in the way of sundry fighting sound effects because it provides all the appropriate counterpoint and emphasis called for.

More fun than Karyn Kusama's slick Aeon Flux, better produced than the flawed but interesting Immortal, and official proof that Jovovich (star of The Fifth Element) is now the uncrowned queen of brainless SF adventure, Ultraviolet is worthwhile only if you're easily pleased, and in the market for a decent live-action 'cartoon'.
Ultraviolet poster

robot dentist's chair

two-gun salute

symbolic architecture

my bike, my parking spot

my fangs are killing me

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