Ultraviolet review by Mike Long

The interesting thing about social movements is that one can rarely predict when or where they will happen. For example, for many years, actresses have stated that Hollywood is not a level playing field and that good roles are hard to come by. When one looks at the short list of actresses who regularly get good parts, it's difficult to argue with this assertion. And yet, in this new millennium, we've seen a growing number of action films featuring female characters. The Tomb Raider films, Catwoman, Elektra, the Kill Bill series, and Aeon Flux just to name a few. (Yes, one could argue that these films are more about sex appeal than anything else, but for the moment, we'll focus on the positive.) While these films offer a decided mix in quality, they've all helped women to be more accepted in a male-dominated genre. Unfortunately, Ultraviolet may have ruined all of that.

Ultraviolet is set in a dystopian future. An opening monologue tells us that a biological experiment got out of control, creating a disease. Those who contracted this disease were called Hemophages -- presumably because the disease effects the blood -- and were shunned by humanity and mistreated by the government. As the story (?!) gets underway, we meet Violet (Milla Jovovich), a Hemophage who is part of a rebel resistance fighting the disease-phobic government led by Vice-Cardinal Ferdinand Daxus (Nick Chinlund). On an assignment to steal a new weapon, Violet uncovers a totally unsuspected plot by the government. Violet then goes against her colleagues and the government as she makes a valiant effort to save the last part of her humanity.

It was with great anxiety that I wrote that synopsis, as I was only guessing at what Ultraviolet was about in some places. That's because Ultraviolet is one of the most confusing and convoluted movies that I've ever seen. The first six minutes of the film attempts to get the audience up to speed on what is happening in the story, but the back-story feels like it could have been another film altogether. It's like walking into a sequel where you haven't seen the original film. As if that weren't enough, the deluge of information tells us a lot and nothing at the same time. Blood wars? Hemophages? This isn't done in some coy attempt to lay out a structure which will be explained later. It's just there for us to ingest and move on.

From that insult, we move into the body of the film. Now, I complain constantly about boring movies and I hate films where nothing happens. Ultraviolet attempts to buck that trend by offering an opening which is filled with Violet infiltrating a government complex, followed by an extended chase scene. But, after 20 minutes of this, I began to realize that I didn't care about the on-screen action because I had no idea what was happening. As the film progressed, that sense of unease didn't fade. We are given bits and pieces of a plot, but a true story never materializes. The movie offers one over-the-top action scene after another, but once you've seen Milla kill 100 guys once, seeing it over and over gets old.

All of this is beyond bewildering, because the writer/director of Ultraviolet, Kurt Wimmer, scored with his previous film, the impressive Equilibrium. That movie featured a similar story about an unpleasant future, but it's action scenes were combined with an intriguing story and dramatic undertones. (Granted, it was all lifted was sources such as "1984" and "Brave New World", but at least it was interesting.) While Equilibrium could at least be labeled as quasi-intelligent, Ultraviolet is simply dumb, dumb, dumb. The government with its religious imagery, questionable vampires, and Violet's ability to change the color of her hair and clothing all add up to nothing.

At times such as this, critics such as myself sound like complete hypocrites when we complain about action films having no story. Many classic action movies had very simple stories. That is completely true and there's nothing wrong with a streamlined plot in an action film. But, movie like Ultraviolet beg to be questioned because they put forward many ideas which should form a story, but don't. As for the action scenes, they look good, but they become very redundant after a while. Wimmer retains a nice sense of visual imagery and the film is filled with nice shots, but the movie may as well have been in another language. But, unlike The Grim Ringler, at least I made it through the whole thing.

Ultraviolet bleeds onto DVD courtesy of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The movie was HD shot and this shows on the image. The picture is sharp and clear for the most part, however, close-ups look very out of focus and fuzzy. The image has a great deal of depth and the colors are very good. There is no grain on the picture and there are no defects from the source material. There was no noticeable artifacting, but I did see evidence of video noise at times. The DVD carries a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track which offers clear dialogue and sound effects. The sound design here is quite nice and the use of surround sound and subwoofer effects attempts to add a little something to this dull film.

Ultraviolet has come to DVD in two separate releases, one the PG-13 theatrical cut and the other an extended, unrated cut. For this review, on the PG-13 cut was seen, so I can't comment on what was added to the longer cut...nor do I wish to.

And now we come to the DISOWNED! portion of our review, as we discuss the DVD's extra features which show no involvement from created Kurt Wimmer at all. Milla Jovovich provides an Audio Commentary for the film, and although she tries hard, this isn't a very good talk. She discusses the making of the film and how some scenes were difficult to shoot, but neither she, nor her dogs who are with her, can add much on the technical aspects of the film. "UV Protection: The Making of Ultraviolet" is a 31-minute featurette divided into four parts (I'm not sure why). This gives us an overview of the story, as well as an in-depth look at the motorcycle chase, the visuals, the costumes, and the stunts and fighting. There is a lot of behind-the-scenes footage and comments from cast and crew, but again, no Wimmer.

2 out of 10 Jackasses

blog comments powered by Disqus