Ultraviolet (2006)
Directed by Kurt Wimmer

Artistic Value: * * *
Entertainment Value: * * * *

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Sometime in the not-too-distant future, the U.S. military experiments with a rare disease in the hope of using it to produce superior soldiers. Instead, they release a plague, hemophagia, that gives its victims, called hemophages, enhanced physical abilities, but that also reduces their life expectancy to a mere twelve years. These persons are subsequently persecuted, and most, having been confined and isolated, disappear. A few, however, fight against such repression. One of these individuals, Violet (Milla Jovovich), is sent by the resistance to get ahold of a new secret weapon that they believe was created to destroy their kind. She steals this weapon, but when she discovers it is actually human boy, Six (Cameron Bright), she decides to protect him. This brings her into conflict both with the other hemophages and with a powerful government official, Daxus (Nick Chinlund), who is determined to retrieve Six to serve his own ambitions.

I cannot say that Kurt Wimmer's Ultraviolet is a good movie, but it is an entertaining movie. As deeply flawed as the film is, there are a sufficient number of appealing elements in it to keep the viewer engaged.

For one thing, Ultraviolet is consistently impressive visually. Making extensive use of computer generated effects, the director has frequently supplemented his scenes with fabulous backdrops depicting a stunning futuristic metropolis filled with tall, weirdly sculpted skyscrapers and vast government complexes, one of which is shaped like the symbol for hazardous material and another of which is like a gigantic cross. Appealing though these backdrops are, they are hardly the only details in the movie that are likely to catch the viewer's eye. Wimmer has modified nearly every scene, enhancing some colors while fading others, and softening most of the images' lines. The effect is dreamy, strange, and otherworldly. The moviegoer is, thanks to Ultraviolet's look, transported to some comic-book universe where he is surrounded by impossible landscapes and actions. Even the costumes are great. With its gas mask wearing guards, its multi-hued pedestrians whose faces are concealed with surgical masks, its black draped hemophages, and its villain with his super-hygienic suit that comes complete with attached gloves and boots and is complemented by a pair of metallic nose plugs, the future world's denizens are all well realized. That said, Violet is, without a doubt, the most attractive character in the film. With her toned midriff constantly bared, she moves from scene to scene in skintight PVC pants and haltertops that are capable of changing from one color to another (along with her hair that can go from black to purple in seconds).

Happily, the film is not enjoyable only for its images. The action sequences the director has included are also genuinely enthralling. Almost all are stylish, balletic, and graceful, while also being truly exciting to watch. Combining wu xia style martial arts with gun play, Wimmer has infused these scenes with a wonderful, violent beauty. Whether Violet is dodging the bullets of dozens of opponents, racing up the side of a skyscraper in a motorcycle, or engaging in a gymnastic sword fight, she is a joy to see. That said, the film's final sequence, in which Violet faces off with Daxus, is somewhat disappointing. It is, however, virtually the only routine that is not well done.

Unfortunately, as much as I enjoyed Ultraviolet's images and its fight scenes, the pleasure I took from the film was significantly diminished by its faults, and these are severe. The script, for one thing, ranges from mediocre to atrocious. I cannot even begin to express how bad it is at its worst. I have seen movies with lines as awful as those that can be heard here, but that is hardly an excuse Wimmer could give for what he has written. Just to make things worse, the acting is about as accomplished as is the script. Some of the performers are competent, but the majority are not. Most importantly, Ms Jovovich can be awkward. She does show real skill as an action heroine. I will give her that. I will also concede that she is a very attractive woman and is always a pleasure simply to look at. Regrettably, her delivery of some of her lines reminded me of what might be expected of an actor appearing in a high school drama club performance.

As weakened as it is by such shortcomings, Ultraviolet is still a decent action film. In fact, it is far better than are the great majority of such films being made today, almost all of which are burdened with the same flaws and few of which have the same virtues.

Review by Keith Allen

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