Ultraviolet was directed and written by Kurt Wimmer (Spell, Salt) and stars Milla Jovovich (Chaplin, Future World), Cameron Bright (Motive, Normal), Sebastien Andrieu (Look at Me), Nick Chinlund (The Prey: Legend of Karnoctus, Toxic), and William Fichtner (Mom, Strange Days). It follows a vampirism-stricken woman as she protects a young boy from a world that’s out to use him as a solution to an ongoing war between vampires and humans.
The Plot: Totalitarianism is all the rage in Hollywood, and it has been for quite some time. Many great movies have come from a world ruled under an iron fist (and stories within them), but some try to hit every mark, use every cliche, and be every little thing; all to poor results. That’s Ultraviolet’s gig.
In 2078, the world has been infected with a modified virus meant to create super soldiers that ended up creating vampires(?). As the virus spread, the infected were forced underground by Vice Cardinal (whatever that means) Daxus (Chinlund) to fight when they could. Reasons, why the infected are so hated, are never given, and, apart from the obvious vampiric traits of a weakness to sunlight and need for blood, there’s no real difference between them and the uninfected. Regardless, Daxus wants to release a superweapon to wipe out the “hemophages” before… something.
Undercover, resistance fighter Violet (Jovovich) somehow infiltrates the headquarters and steals the superweapon, which, to no one’s surprise, turns out to be a child, named Six (Bright). Bringing him back to resistance leader Nerva (Andrieu) poses its own problems, as he wants to destroy him, even though Six will self-destruct in nine hours unless delivered. Somehow. Never mind, bringing Six back to the resistance doesn’t cause problems. Because Ultraviolet already shot its own plot in both feet, Violet goes on the run, for some reason, using Garth (Fichtner) as a way to save Six, whose value never stays consistent.
Wimmer tries to add twists that only serve to make the already idiotic story something revelatory. They never work, and the plot only gets less intelligible as it goes, even though it’s a straightforward action narrative that has minuscule detailing.
The Characters: Recycling character dynamics from notable classics wouldn’t have been ideal in the curious case of Ultraviolet but doing so would’ve made for more interesting people to follow, which are wholly absent in the final product.
Violet, as told by some blunt narration, is a vengeful “hemopage” because of the accidental death of her unborn child. Her husband was being attacked by a vampire and was subsequently infected, requiring him to be put down immediately. His blood got on her, which ended up killing her child. Somehow, this series of events made her hate humans instead of vampires. Ultraviolet tries to make her likeable, but her sudden urge to save Six feels false since it happens at the drop of a hat. She’s just a generic stoic type with no weaknesses other than bad writing.
Six is less of a character and more of a plot device. For the first 25 minutes, he’s stuck inside a briefcase (I’m not kidding), and he may as well have stayed there for the rest of the runtime since he hardly says anything, does anything or has any impact. He’s only there for Violet to protect, abandon, and go back to protecting ad infinitum.
Both Daxus and Nerva are over-the-top bad guys who want, in a nutshell, to take over the world. Daxus is a germaphobe to the extreme; hermetically sealing everything from coffee to guns, and plugging his nose at all times. In case that wasn’t stupid enough, he throws vampires into quarantine camps despite wanting to kill them all. Nerva isn’t much better, as the only difference between himself and Daxus is that the former keeps up the illusion of benevolence until Violet completes her mission. I hate every single character in this movie, and you should too.
The Action: 1999 marked a shift in western action with the release of The Matrix. Everyone wanted to copy the extravagant stunts, flowing martial arts, and gun-fu that the Wachowskis distilled perfectly, including Kurt Wimmer, who couldn’t stop himself from failing twice.
Violet is one of those protagonists that can never get hurt, knows all the moves, and has all the gadgets she needs to win, making the already derivative fights pointless. The first fight scene has all of the worst attributes filmed action can have: the enemies have the reaction time of turtles, they refuse to fire their weapons, and fight one at a time. It’s a blowout of epic proportions that never attains the coolness it so desires, which can be said for almost every fight that comes after.
Some vehicle chases follow, but they’re complete failures as well. As the heroine escapes the regime’s headquarters, she uses a motorcycle as her getaway vehicle. Helicopters and soldiers are in pursuit, but thanks to the belt that Violet wears allowing her, and her bike, to magnetize to surfaces like the side of a building, there’s never any illusion that she’s in danger. Even when the setpiece comes to a head with Violet facing down a chopper on the top of a building, Ultraviolet stumbles by giving the enemies an awkward pause, allowing the main character to drive through them and into a skyscraper across the street.
Gunfights make up the majority of the action scenes, and the director tries harder to emulate his dollar store version of gun-fu (called gun-kata) than he tries to emulate the version that kicked off the craze to begin with. It’s as stupid as it was in Equilibrium, with Violet able to dodge bullets at mach speeds while Jovovich unenthusiastically stabs (for lack of a better term) her firearms towards enemies while blasting them away, rarely taking a step while doing so.
Calling the action scenes in Ultraviolet inane is an understatement. The movie tries so hard to reach a level of pizzazz in its action scenes that came naturally to its inspiration that it’s laughable between the drabness of it all.
The Technics: $30 million can go a long way in a gifted filmmaker’s hands. In the hands of this director, it either went down the drain or into someone’s pockets, as Ultraviolet doesn’t even look like a first edit.
Most glaringly obvious to most will be the at times disturbing look of the movie, with a series of filters and digital additions added in post-production that makes the entire film appear as though it’s been played by dolls, finished, and then dipped in oil for effect. Everything has a glossy sheen to it that makes it look like animation, including the physical production assets. It’s an ugly choice, but a choice nonetheless. Adding to the terrible visuals are effects that are so poorly rendered that one would be forgiven for thinking that they haven’t been finished and editing so choppy you’d think someone with hand tremors was responsible.
Sound design is the only thing that Ultraviolet has going for it. Guns have a solid level of reverb and volume that, at times, almost makes up for the unintelligible visuals that they’re paired with. The noises of chases, hand-to-hand impacts, and even lines of dialogue are all balanced well. It’s nice to see at least one facet of the production fared well.
In his second attempt to copy The Matrix and its stylistics, Kurt Wimmer failed even harder than before. Ultraviolet is a failure in every metric that deserves the bashing it received and more. Staring at the sun might be a better viewing option.
Ultraviolet is available on Blu-ray, DVD and Digital platforms from Sony.