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Ultraviolet (2006)

Starring Milla Jovovich, Cameron Bright, Nick Chinlund, William Fichtner, Sebastien Andrieu

Written & Directed by Kurt Wimmer


Dark Horizons’ Garth Franklin wrote the following in his review of Stephen Sommers’ Van Helsing: “Sommers is like a kid who’s just discovered masturbation, he just cannot control himself and has to keep doing things bigger, wilder and ultimately dumber – long past the point of reason or madness.” I’d say that statement also applies – perhaps doubly so – to writer/director Kurt Wimmer’s Ultraviolet. This film is pure masturbation on the part of a director not without talent, who clearly lost all rhyme and reason somewhere along the way. He masturbates like Stephen Sommers but ejaculates like Uwe Boll. Ultraviolet takes all the badness of Catwoman and repackages it with the look of live action anime and the mentality of a video game you have no control over.

Ultraviolet‘s story has to do with a dystopian future where everyone lives in fear of a virus that turns people into vampires, or as the movie calls them, “hemophages.” The word vampire is used exactly once in the whole film, not that it matters since aside from having fangs and being told that they like blood – this may be the first vampire film in history to feature not a single scene of blood-drinking – there’s absolutely nothing vampiric about them whatsoever. The whole “hemophage” concept is obviously the excuse Wimmer came up with to justify the superhuman abilities of certain characters, and even they see those abilities enhanced by some high tech gadgets. Our heroine Violet is told at one point that she’s lucky that her turning didn’t make her super sensitive to sunlight. I don’t recall any hemophage being shown sensitive to sunlight, so what’s the point with including a line like that? Heck, the majority of the film takes place in broad daylight.

The film’s conflict is built around a “blood war” between humans and hemophages. Humanity discovered the virus that causes vampirism, experimented with it, and inadvertently unleashed a mutated version of it into the populace, leading to people becoming hemophages and the rest of the populace living in fear of both the hemophages and becoming infected. Humans have assembled a high-tech fighting force of faceless storm troopers led by a guy named Daxis whose official title is Vice Cardinal; they seek to exterminate all hemophages. Even getting doused with even a drop of hemophage blood can cause infection and is grounds for immediate execution. The hemophages have, in turn, declared war on the government. This whole plot fails right off the bat because we’re never shown anything that justifies mankind feeling threatened enough to want to flat out exterminate every last hemophage. We’re also briefly introduced to the concept that hemophages have split off into various factions; a completely worthless addition to the script that exists solely to give the heroine some fellow hemophages to feud with.

Hemophage superheroine Violet is assigned to steal a case containing a weapon that the humans are planning to use against the hemophages to wipe them out once and for all. The level of cyberpunk security she has to make her way through borders on self parody. A half hour and approximately seven empty action set pieces later, including a motorcycle chase boasting quite possibly the worst CGI you’ll ever see on the big screen, Violet is on the run from both the Vice Cardinal’s forces and the hemophages she’s double-crossed with a kid known only as Six, who was the confines of the case she stole. Another concept that Wimmer introduces is that of “flat space,” which I won’t explain for my own lack of space; besides, the reason it exists in the film is to explain how an unconscious child could be contained in a case the size of a toilet seat and how everyone is able to literally pull swords and guns out of thin air.

Milla Jovovich as Violet sashays through the film like a pretentious late 60’s European fashion model that got lost on the way to one of Andy Warhol’s parties and found herself trapped in a Luc Besson sci-fi film. As a convoluted (a word that typifies much of everything in the film) flashback sequence explains minutes in, Violet was once human, married, and pregnant until something vague happened, her husband was killed, she got infected, turned into a hemophage, lost her unborn baby, and… Well, like I said, it’s all rather vague. With no explanation as to how she developed her unmatched fighting skills, Violet is now a part of the hemophage resistance and claims an absolute hatred for humans. Wimmer gives you little reason to root for her due in large part to the fact that much of the time her actions and loyalties appear to hinge on what kind of mood she’s in during that particular scene.

Violet’s supposed to bond with this kid whose blood may hold the key to curing hemophages or wiping them out, which is why both factions are in pursuit, even making their own deals with one another. The truth about what the Vice Cardinal wants with the kid is monumentally stupid. I won’t reveal it but just imagine an Orwellian version of what the Mission Impossible 2 villains were aiming for. It’s also kind of hard to root for this kid after he deliberately sets up an innocent child to take a bullet meant for him, and Violet doesn’t bat an eye at this act either.

This leads us back to the script, which seemed to be the fourth thing on his mind behind the art direction, action choreography, and visual effects. Aside from a hemophage scientist friend of Violet nicely played “Invasion” star William Fichtner, nobody, and I do mean nobody, has any real depth other than their attitude. I know the studio took the movie away from Wimmer and re-edited it but I can’t help but suspect that this for once was a major studio’s legitimate attempt to salvage a film made by a filmmaker that had taken total leave of his senses. I doubt any amount of reediting would change save the story that manages to be both barely there and hopelessly convoluted at the same time, the characters that are treated with all the respect of a first grader playing with his army men in the backyard, and the dialogue that comes out of these poor actors’ mouths that’s downright embarrassing at times. When the evil Daxis declares before the penultimate fight scene with Violet that “It’s on!” I found myself wondering if the script supervisor accidentally mixed up some pages with the screenplay of You Got Served.

All Kurt Wimmer seemed to be concerned with were elevating the aesthetics of the sci-fi action movie genre. The use of colors, the special effects, the fight choreography, the pumping metal music, the hyper editing, the unusual camera angles, the endless amounts of posing by the actors – it’s all for nothing and amounts to nothing. He seemed to be trying to do something revolutionary but all he’s done is put on a repetitive fireworks display that grows increasingly numbing with each new action set piece. Because the plot and the characters matter so little, the action scenes, as numerous as they might be, ring hollow. Violet enters a room for whatever reason and finds herself doing battle with a small army; the majority of whom she’ll take out in a matter of seconds either with her sword or using “gunkata,” Wimmer’s own personal brand of gunplay first unveiled in the vastly superior Equilibrium that involves a person gunning down multiple targets with how they pose while firing being far more important than any logistics. There were times when I thought I might actually be watching Uwe Boll’s big screen version of the game “Smash TV”.
It’s amazing how a film that should be a visual feast and a non-stop smorgasbord of action sequences can fail so miserably. I went into Ultraviolet expecting a mostly mindless, ultra-stylized, comic book style action flick and found myself tempted to walk out about halfway through due more to the insufferably smug aura of “Hey, look how cool I am!” it gave off than the overall terribleness of the story mechanics. No matter how in love with itself the film may be, there’s just no getting around the fact that Ultraviolet is just an awful, awful movie that’s takes itself too seriously and is way too impressed with itself to be any fun.

From what I’ve read about Kurt Wimmer, he supposedly hates movie critics. After sitting through Ultraviolet I find myself wondering if he hates audiences too. Right now the feeling is mutual. Being a fan of bad movies, maybe in time I’ll be able to look back on Ultraviolet and derive some entertainment from the sheer awfulness of it all, but for now this exercise in cinematic masturbation left me feeling like I was on the receiving end of a Peter North facial. Wimmer may have gotten himself off but all I want to do is clean myself off.

0 ½ out of 5

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Jon Condit