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It Bites and Sucks 

The 'Underworld' prequel drives a stake into the franchise

I just saw a hilarious publicity shot of Bill Nighy and Michael Sheen attending the premiere of their latest, Underworld: Rise of the Lycans. While Sheen is managing something of a smile, Nighy looks pained and embarrassed. He should be.

This is a prequel to Underworld, the vampire vs. werewolf wannabe epic whose primary reason for seeing it was Kate Beckinsale in gloriously tight outfits. Save for a quick cameo, Beckinsale has departed, with Nighy and Sheen rising to the prestige of headliner roles in the franchise. Rhona Mitra stops by to play a vampiress in tight outfits and, while she is impressive looking, what Beckinsale pulled off in her vampire ware cannot be touched.

Sheen, who also stars as David Frost in the Academy Award-nominated Frost/Nixon, humiliates himself for a third time as Lucian, King Shit of the werewolves ... sorry ... Lycans. Lucian is a servant of Viktor, the supreme vampire played by Nighy who, once again, pushes melodramatic dialogue through those damned prosthetic teeth. Lucian has been made chief blacksmith by Viktor, who keeps Lucian under guard by placing some sort of restraining bolt around his neck that prevents werewolf transformation. Lucian eventually fashions a key, which subsequently leads to a werewolf revolt and the RISE OF THE LYCANS!

Which raises the question: If you are keeping a werewolf in captivity, and the primary way of keeping said werewolf in captivity is a lock, then why make him a blacksmith? Wouldn't it stand to reason that said werewolf blacksmith would eventually make a key and free his own ass? Wouldn't it be a better thing to make said werewolf something less threatening, like a gardener or barista? Viktor giving him the blacksmith job is like Jesus inviting Judas to the Last Supper. He had to know the guy would eventually cause trouble for him. This bothers me.

This is a prequel to the previous two Underworld movies. Rather than show us the origins of, say, Beckinsale's Selene, who is way too damned smart to be involved full time at this point, we get some garbage about the Lycans and their rise to power. It's a bunch of nonsense about werewolves being enslaved by vampires, and vampires transforming humans into Lycans for incredibly stupid reasons. Apparently, the vampires need the Lycans for daytime protection. Of course, there will be a Planet of the Apes style revolt, the big difference being that Planet of the Apes was fun while this is crap.

There's a little bit of a Romeo and Juliet vibe when Lucian starts screwing around with Viktor's daughter, Sonja (Mitra). Mitra's sole purpose for being in this movie is that she has a slight resemblance to Beckinsale, and they can put her on the poster. This, in turn, confuses fans of Beckinsale's ass in tight black outfits, who shell out the big bucks thinking she has a major part in the film. Alas, they only get about 10 seconds of Beckinsale. That's about a buck a second. Total rip-off!

Sheen's a good actor, but he's intolerable in this movie, and this dreck could hurt Frost/Nixon in the same way Norbit torpedoed Eddie Murphy's Oscar for Dreamgirls. His big speeches, where he's trying to rouse fellow Lycans into action, are laughable. Sheen screams "We are Lycans!" with the exact same volume and cadence as Gerard Butler when he bellowed "This is Sparta!" in 300. Sheen's efforts to emulate Butler are futile, for he is far less intimidating. Butler's pectorals are super fantastic, while Sheen's are merely respectable.

Lots of incomprehensible action, kooky color contact lenses and some horribly stilted line deliveries make this the year's first really, really bad movie. Sheen and Nighy need to put this stuff behind them, or they are liable to do serious damage to their good standing. Me no likey Lycans.

Underworld: Rise of the Lycans
Rated R · 92 minutes · 2009
Official Site: www.entertheunderworld.com
Director: Patrick Tatopoulos
Producer: Gary Lucchesi, Tom Rosenberg, Len Wiseman, Richard Wright, Skip Williamson, Beth DePatie, Henry Winterstern, James McQuaide and Eric Reid
Cast: Michael Sheen, Bill Nighy, Rhona Mitra, Steven Mackintosh, Kevin Grevioux, David Ashton, Elizabeth Hawthorne, Tania Nolan, Craig Parker, Shane Brolly, Tim Raby, Larry Rew, Peter Tait, Olivia Taylforth, Alexander Carroll and Kate Beckinsale

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The Coast Halifax Underworld: Rise of the Lycans There is not an intended joke in the whole shebang. by Mark Palermo 01/29/2009

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