A persistent surreal silliness lends some interest to this latest film in the interminable Underworld action vampire-horror franchise series: the fifth, in fact. It’s the franchise that simply refuses to die.
Kate Beckinsale reprises her kinkily black-leather-clad role of the vampire Selene. She and the other vampires are now threatened by the lupine Lycans, who do lots of CGI transformation from human to beast and back again. They are led by the malign Marius (Tobias Menzies); Selene has on her side the hunky creature of the shadows David (Theo James), yet faces treachery of the outrageously décolleté sort from Semira (Lara Pulver), who is rocking a series of revealing outfits. Charles Dance comes on, selling his preposterous lines with absolute conviction and professionalism and giving everything a residual Game-of-Thrones vibe.
Slinky Selene is all very well, but these days you can’t help but remember the role for which Beckinsale is now better known: Lady Susan Vernon in the Jane Austen drama Love & Friendship; in fact, this bloody vampire punch-up could do with some dry dialogue from Austen. It could certainly do with Tom Bennett sauntering on sporting fangs and a black, burgundy-lined cape, as a vampire version of his legendary aristocratic blockhead Sir James Martin, and burbling his appreciation of the exciting events: “Ah! Yes! Vampires! Isn’t it? Very good. Sucking ... sucking blood. Wearing black contact lenses. Black lipstick. And also blasting people violently with ... shotguns. Bang! Blood everywhere. Ooh! And sometimes shooting people while looking in the opposite direction. Very ... very cool. Insouciant, you know. But why not just look in the, ah, correct direction, what? Mm.”
This has been a regular payday for Beckinsale and she certainly gives it her all, but you have to wonder why she bothers, certainly now that we know what she can do with more interesting material. Surely there’s something just as lucrative and not quite as undead.