The Barenaked Archives – Ultraviolet

From 2003 up until 2007, I was lucky enough to have “movie reviewer” as my job description. As such, I’ve built up a *lot* of reviews for just about every movie that came out during those years, as well as reviews of classic movies.

The Barenaked Archives are reviews that I did for two previous websites. Sadly, they are both gone, so this is now the only place online you can see these old columns.

Ultraviolet posterUltraviolet is another entry into the futuristic sci-fi lone-person-against-the-totalitarian-government genre, the second from director Kurt Wimmer, who also helmed 2002’s cult hit Equilibrium. Equilibrium was far, far from perfect (thanks to a completely impossible premise), but it was pretty entertaining, if only because of Christian Bale.

However, just from watching the trailers for Ultraviolet, it’s obvious there’s nothing redeeming there except for the sheer entertainment value garnered from watching a car wreck. So, I gathered three friends and we went into Ultraviolet expecting bad dialogue, plot holes the size of Kansas (if there even was a plot, as the trailers certainly didn’t hint at one), and CGI that would make an Xbox look good.

Ultraviolet actually exceeded our expectations in its sheer awfulness. It’s so entertainingly terrible that you can’t help but just laugh through the whole thing, and by “laugh” I mean “so hard that you break ribs and piss of the people for five rows around you.” (They were laughing too, though, so I didn’t feel so bad.)

Ultraviolet does have a plot, which could be unfortunate for those looking to laugh at it, but thankfully the plot is such that it enhances the entertainment value. Violet (Milla Jovovich) is a Hemophage, which is basically a fancy scientific term for a vampire. The government attempted to isolate the genes that made vampires and modify them in an effort to make super-soldiers, but they only succeeded in making those infected faster, stronger, and smarter. The disease started spreading, and Hemophages became a larger subculture within society.

So, of course, the government decided the only good Hemophage was a dead one. Now Violet and a few others are the only Hemophages left, and Violet’s been put up to the task of intercepting a weapon that will annihilate them. Problem is, the weapon turns out to be a nine-year-old boy named Six (Cameron Bright), and Violet’s just too nice to let her people or the government kill him. Thus, she goes on the run to protect Six. And, in true bad-movie fashion, we have plot twist, plot twist, plot twist, and happy ending.

Laughter begins even during the opening credits, which are written on comic book covers depicting Ultraviolet kicking ass and which prompted my friends to ask me if this was based on a comic book. (It’s not.) For some reason comic-style credits are cool when movies like Sky High and Spider-man 2 do it, probably because those are obviously comic-related movies. Not so cool when it’s Ultraviolet.

Then the movie starts, and it opens with — guess what! — a voiceover, the same one that’s been repeated every single preview for this movie. “My name is Violet. I was born in a world you may not understand.” As I recently saw a horrible, repetitive voiceover that began “My name is…” in Domino, that now brings the grand total of movies ripped off to three, and we’re not even five minutes in.

We also get laughable, er, wonderful sci-fi inventions like a gravity leveler, which allows Violet and her motorcycle to make any direction down. The best invention, though, is flatspace, another dimension that collapses things like guns, swords, and people and fits them into itty-bitty spaces, which is how Violet is able to carry infinite guns in her wrists and belt and how a nine-year-old can fit into a white package about the size of a school binder.

It’s a fantastic plot convenience that allows the writer/director to load Violet down with weapons without obscuring her body. Not that it makes much sense, considering that the only time there is blatant, unnecessary nudity, we only see her from the back. Go figure.

The action scenes are hands-down the funniest part of the movie. They all (“all” is not an exaggeration) begin with a five-minute standoff, with dialogue predictable of a standoff:

Violet: “Move.”
Bad Guy du Jour: “No. You will never make it out of this building/off this roof/out of this room alive.”
Violet: “Watch me.”

Then hilarity ensues as Violet shatters the government soldiers’ armor with a well-placed kick or punch, which begs the question as to which scientist thought glass armor was a good idea. Or, she skillfully dodges bullets and makes the men surrounding her shoot each other, in a scene that looks like The Matrix mated with the House of Blue Leaves scene from Kill Bill Vol. 1.

Or (and this is the most fun), ten guys run up and close around her in a circle about two feet in diameter, Violet ducks, and then all ten guys fall down, having been sliced in vital areas by her magic sword that’s been hiding in another dimension. And they lose absolutely no blood in the process. There’s one part where a guy gets stabbed and you can actually see him do the “slip the sword between your arm and body” thing, and then fall down.

For a movie involving vampires, there’s disappointingly little blood. Not that this could be even remotely classified as a vampire movie. If nobody gets bitten in the neck and sucked dry, it’s not a vampire movie.

Then there’s the dialogue. As you can see from the above example, it’s pretty much the standard tripe for this type of movie, but occasionally you get a line that’s so horrid it surpasses your hopes and is funny enough to induce a heart attack. There are enough of them that you should wait until this hits DVD and make a drinking game of it.

The visual effects were miraculously worse than expected. I’ve seen FMVs on Playstation 2 and Xbox that looked more professional than that, especially during the motorcycle chase at the beginning. Violet looks like they’re always shooting her through a soft filter or something, kind of like in Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow.

There’s not a good reason to waste upwards of five dollars on this movie, other than it’s probably funnier than most comedies in theaters. In fact, it would be a crime to waste more than one. Wait till it hits DVD, and when you and your friends are in the mood for a movie so bad it’s funny, pool your money together, rent this, and get ready to laugh.

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