released in the spring of 2006, ultraviolet came between resident evil 2 and resident evil 3. it scores 18 out of 100 on metacritic, which ranks it at the bottom five of all the movies released that year. going by their scorecard, it ranks above date movie, kane’s see no evil, and the duff sisters’ material girls. it has the same score as uwe boll’s bloodrayne, but not as good as, according to most critics, renny harlin’s the covenant (current score: 19) and larry the cable guy: health inspector (current score: 21).
written and directed by kurt wimmer, ultraviolet continues his matrix fetish and the gun kata also makes a comeback. instead of a pre-dark-knighted christian bale, we get milla jovovich killing time between resident evil sequels.
the plot has something to do with a futuristic dystopian society (are there any other kind?) infected by a virus that turns human into vampires. of course someone came up with a cure, of course, this pharmaceutical corporation turns out to be villainous. violet also bonds with a kid (cameron bright) who maybe perhaps possibly be crucial to the plot. he doesn’t see dead people but he’s the same creepy kid who’s in birth and godsend. nick chinlund (con air, tears of the sun, chronicles of riddick) plays the villain, who’s not as interesting as stephen dorff (a phrase i never thought i would say) from the blade movie. william fichtner (equilibrium, heat, go) plays the kris kristofferson role as the lead’s sidekick, though he doesn’t get to do much like in drive angry shot in 3d. he (and the repetitive post-production voice over narration by milla) is merely an exposition device here.
so instead of zombies, it’s vampires. and milla also has longer hair and bangs instead of the shorter hair in the resident evil movies. it’s also a similar hairstyle to angelina jolie in salt, also written by wimmer. also unlike resident evils, she wears the bono sunglasses for most of the movie (maybe something they picked up on from the million dollar hotel, in which she also plays mother figure to a child). i don’t think i’ve ever mention clothing, hair and accessories (so early) in reviewing a movie, but it’s one of the few noteworthy elements of the movie.
to say ultraviolet style over substance would be to imply that it has substance. it doesn’t seem to care to involve you, the viewer in the experience. it’s equivalent to watching someone play a videogame or having to sit through a long unskippable cut scene of the game you’re playing. though in this case i don’t mean it as an entirely negative statement. the movie does look amazing. the set and production design and background and even some of the special effects are top notch. it’s not totally coincidental either: even in close-ups, many of the actors’ faces look kind of fuzzy and blurry, giving it a more digital look (it was shot with sony digital cameras). there’s also the fact that like mallrats, the opening credits is done in comic book form, and the movie is not based on any actual picture books.
as good-looking as everything is in the movie, there are simply not enough stuff here to fulfill a 90 minute movie*. they kind of blew their load by showing their hands in the first half of the movie, where most of the great action scenes take place. there’s a pretty good gravity defying scene early on in the movie and then there’s the helicopter/motorcycle sequence. after seeing milla kills 5 people, then ten, then twenty, you cease to be amazed by her killing fifty or seventy. though she nevertheless is able to amaze the bad guys, who can’t quite believe that she’s able to kill all their henchmen. and try as they might, there are only so many variations of gun-kata you can do.
ultraviolet is no doubt nice to look at though, from the various hair and jacket color (though always baring midriff) change to the numerous ass shots to the magnificent looking skyscrapers and cityscapes.
shot on location in china, it’s somewhat of an asset to the movie that it’s able to provide an atypical futuristic scifi city landscape. it actually reminds me of some of the post-matrix digital-heavy not-entirely-successful hong kong movies like black mask or tokyo raiders.
unlike equilibrium, ultraviolet doesn’t have the story or message to support its superficiality. i mean it as a compliment that the first half kind of challenges the idea of movies, much like charlie’s angels 2, bad boys ii, and enter the void. except it lacks the balls out craziness of those movies, and it isn’t pushed far enough like a zack snyder visionary experience would. as a result, the lack of any story and character and dramatic elements are more exposed than those movies. at the same time, it’s also not as bad as it’s made out to be, and feels more inventive and less corporate than your typical resident evil movies. if you own a bar or a club, or when you’re having a party, here’s the perfect background movie for you.
*the version i have is the “unrated” 94 minute version, which is six minutes longer than the theatrical version. there is supposedly a two hour director’s cut but screen gem, who’s also responsible for the resident evil and underworld movies, decided to make it a more female action heroine movie. wimmer and jovovich were said to be locked out of the editing process. a different cut may have helped the movie but i don’t think making it a two hour movie would have made it better.
p.s. a critic’s conundrum: had i watch this before the resident evil movies, i probably would have liked them less and like this one more. but it doesn’t seem fair for me to go back and change my rating for them. as far as matrix-y films go, i have more respect for ultraviolet than the last three resident evil movies even though i have to give it a lower rating.