Muzzlehatch | the walls of Gormenghast | 09/14/2010
(2 out of 5 stars)
"Did I miss the 10-second explanation buried inside this piece of braindead silliness somewhere about how "Flatspace technology" works? See, that's how heroine Violet (Milla Jovovich, all bare-midriffed and tight-assed and leather-clad) can just suddenly have access to any number of guns or swords that she needs at any instant to kill the dozens or hundreds of similarly-armed bad guys that keep getting thrown at her in nearly every scene in this 87-minutes-too-long film. Perhaps I also missed the explanation as to how Violet went from seemingly ordinary mother-to-be to unstoppable killing machine in a decade also? How she fooled the extremely detailed scans of her actual DNA in the beginning of the film that should have kept her from entering a top-secret lab and taking the secret weapon in the humans' war against the hemophages - viral vampires of which she is the most perfect example.
Yep, I must have missed all of the backstory, character development, and all sense of what the narrative is supposed to add up to here; or maybe it's all in the extra 6 minutes or whatever in the "Unrated Director's Cut" which (fortunately or not) isn't the version I watched. Somehow I doubt it. Somehow I think the entire reason this film exists is to show Milla dressed in a variety of skintight outfits killing literally hundreds and hundreds of bad guys in one heavily CGI-d, lightning-edited, MATRIX-like sequence after another. Narrative sense, backstory, characterizations - all disposable to director/writer Kurt Wimmer, the man behind the astonishingly highly-rated EQUILIBRIUM, which at least does have a guy who can act when necessary, and a sort of plot to fall back on when the action flags a bit. That film I thought was a prime example of the poverty of imagination in most American genre filmmaking - and the poverty of expectations in audiences that will lap up the same 50-year-old ideas in film after film as long as there are enough bullets and flying kicks. Strangely enough ULTRAVIOLET hasn't maintained any kind of reputation, though for my money it's only slightly more inane.
Oh, that's not to say that there isn't some slight pretense of a story here if you look hard for it; but most of it is lifted from John Cassavetes' 10 million times better GLORIA (1980) - a badass woman ends up taking care of a little boy who is the key to the bad guys' goals. In that case, the son of the victims in a mob hit; in this case, a kid who is apparently the "weapon" that will be used against the hemophages (man, even the wordS Wimmer constructs are stupid). But all that really does is lend a tiny, tiny bit of drama to the proceedings - Violet is so unstoppable that only having a kid to take care of could ever slow her down. And that's really the problem in a nutshell, narrative-wise - where's the drama when you KNOW that the heroine simply cannot fail?
But it's not completely awful (hence the second star). The film was shot on digital video and it shows, but not always in a bad way. I rather liked the brightness of the colors and the softness of some scenes, it was at times hard to tell just how much was CGI in a given sequence and the oddness of the Shanghai and Hong Kong architecture, where the film was shot, adds to the visual quality. And Milla DOES look spectacularly hot. But overall this is no deeper or more interesting as a story than most videogames, and the aesthetic isn't much different. If I liked it just a bit more than the similarly braindead MR. AND MRS. SMITH that I watched last week, I guess it's because my expectations were even lower, and the SF milieu is more inherently appealing to me; but really it's on about the same level of inanity. I guess if that's your bag, and you like the MATRIX films, EQUILIBRIUM, and Michael Bay's style of nonstop action with only the barest of plots, you might like it more than I did."