asian horror

ULTRAVIOLET (2006)

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ULTRAVIOLET  (2006)

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SLASH’S FUCKED UP FRIDAY

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OK, this is my last contribution to the WOMEN IN HORROR series. Next week I will get back on track with Jason Voorhees in FRIDAY THE 13TH IX: JASON GOES TO HELL: THE FINAL FRIDAY (1993), yet another misnomer since there were three more films made after it.

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ULTRAVIOLET, in my view, meets all the requirements for being a bona fide Cult Film; being trashed by the critics, being severely edited by the studio, & yet for the fucking hordes of fantasy/horror/Sci Fi/action lovers, this movie resides in an exalted berth in the lexicon.

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The film stars the dynamic Milla Jovovich, one of the toughest women in action films. She came to my attention starring with Bruce Willis in THE FIFTH ELEMENT (1997),  & then blew my panties off as Joan of Arc in THE MESSENGER (1999). In 2002, she set the bar for movie tough bitches, doing the film version of the successful video game, RESIDENT EVIL–going on to do II (2004), III (2007), IV (2010), & V in (2012); marketed brilliantly this series has kicked BO butt. So much so she is starring in VI, to be released in 2016. Her only real competition in the action woman Sci Fi genre has been the stunning Kate Beckinsale in UNDERWORLD (2003), with its three sequels.

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While on the set of ULTRAVIOLET, director Wimmer asked Milla to punch him, in order to get a feel for the intensity she was putting into her action sequences. She smacked him in the face, & for the next several days he directed with a black eye. Working with fight coordinator Mike Smith, Wimmer combined several fighting styles with rhythmic gymnastics, creating moves no one, not even the pros in Hong Kong, had ever seen before.

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ULTRAVIOLET was directed by Kurt Wimmer, mostly known as a screenwriter, working 12 years doing screenplays before he tried his hand at directing. A martial arts lover, he created a film form he dubbed as Gun Kata.

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He has only directed three films since 1996, this one being his last; the others include ONE TOUGH BASTARD (1996), & EQUILIBRIUM (2002). As a writer, some of his screenplays include THE THOMAS CROWN AFFAIR (1999), STREET KINGS (2008), LAW ABIDING CITIZEN (2009), SALT (2010), & TOTAL RECALL (2012). 

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Wimmer, a rabid comic fan (who the fuck isn’t, that & gamer) decided to do the opening credits for this movie as a montage of ULTRAVIOLET comic books, even though there never was a comic book series; it was all his inventive fabrication. For a writer with only two films under his belt, he demonstrated incredible technical savvy, storyboarding every shot, every angle, working alongside the cinematographer.

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TAGLINES:  The Blood War is On!

                    First they made her a weapon, then a target!

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The film was brought in on time at 120 minutes. The studio did not like it, felt it spent too much time developing Milla’s character, Violet Song Jat Shariff, & that some of the violence was too gory. So they re-edited it, stringing together the action sequences with minimum plot development, trimming down the film to 88 minutes, & from “R” to a “PG” rating. Per usual for the money bags idiots, they really pissed off Wimmer, & of course me as well. Then they totally fucked up the marketing of the movie, releasing it without submitting it to the critics ( a kiss of BO death). Reportedly, the budget was a whopping 30 million bucks, & it grossed 31 million; a studio cluster fuck right down the line. It is only the fans that have sustained interest in this film.

The movie was shot in Hong Kong, specifically Shanghai, where the futuristic architecture fit the director’s vision perfectly. Even Milla Jovovich had been locked out of the editing fiasco. She was not allowed to see her own performance, & she was not amused.

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The cinematography was done by Arthur Wong, who has lensed 97 films since 1976, working with Jet Li & Jackie Chan. Some of his films include ONCE UPON A TIME IN CHINA (1991) & its 2 sequels, IRON MONKEY (1993), THE MEDALLION (2003), & THE WAR LORDS (2007). 

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The music was done by Klaus Badelt, who is a friend of Hans Zimmer. He has composed 74 film scores since 1995, including THE TIME MACHINE (2002), NED KELLY (2003), CONSTANTINE (2005), RESCUE DAWN (2006), & KILL SHOT (2008). 

SYNOPSIS:

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The credits rolling over & out of ULTRAVIOLET comic book covers, all from different artists, in different styles was really a cool fucking way to pave the way for recent rise of comic book movies, & the conquest of television as well. It doesn’t really   matter that no such comic book series exists; hell, it fucking should. Wimmer perfectly prepares us for his world, his movie to view–reaping virgin fields that would later whelp classics like SIN CITY & 300, & their sequels.

Cut to a city of the future, 2078, where all the common diseases of mankind have been cured, & the population is now germaphobic.

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“My name is Violet,” Milla’s narration begins, echoing “My name is Alice”, from the RESIDENT EVIL series. The government, bless their black greedy hearts, was playing with viruses, looking for something that would alter am human into a super soldier; but they, of course, fucked up, & propagated global epidemic that turned some of the population in Hemophages, creating vampire-like symptoms–super human strength & speed & elongated canines (though they were not killer blood suckers afraid of sunlight). They were awesome Day Walkers (like BLADE), but they only lived 12 years after their transformation (echoing the Replicants of the classic Ridley Scott BLADE RUNNER).

The people demanded protection from these pariahs, & the government, the Archministry, headed by Vice-Cardinal Daxus started the Blood War. The hemophages had to wear ID arm bands, & they were rounded up like the Jews during WWII & sent to extermination camps. All this resonates with memories of the Nazis & organized religion, especially the Catholics, controlling the government; no separation of Church & State, hell the church was the state.

Violet has joined a resistance movement, fighting against the “government”. Daxus announces a new weapon has been developed that will eradicate all the Hemophages.

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Cut to a lone motorcyclist riding up to a medical facility, a courier sent to pick up the “weapon” & bring it to Daxus; far-fetched but stunningly staged, the courier is Violet, who has altered her appearance in order to get her hands on the weapon. She passes through several check points, including one where she has to walk naked through a scanner. We only see Milla walking naked from the back side, but her shapely butt stills stirs a trouser pole. (Actually her complete nude scenes in several of the RESIDENT EVIL films were much less sexy. Milla has a super model’s thinness & flat chest, so for me at least, bee-sting breasts don’t make it; but her buff bare midriff, no bra, body sculpted spandex costumes for this film really do flatter her figure.)

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Just as she is handed the briefcase with the weapon in it, the real courier shows up, & alarms go off. All hell breaks loose. Violet is a killing machine, & dispatches/kills up to several dozen soldiers in five stunning fight sequences. Her weapons-guns, knives, & swords appear out of her costume, & for fun, as she enters each chamber or corridor, she changes the color of her attire.

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Some of the dystopian cityscapes, slow motion fighting & such were on display in THE MATRIX (1999), but somehow, director Wimmer found fresh perspectives for all the visual effects. Violet makes it to the outside, where her motorcycle is standing at the ready. As she speeds off there are several cop cars in pursuit, the chase is impressive. Government choppers join the chase. No one does wire work better than the Hong Kong studios, including twin cranes with a cameraman dangling & tracking along a wire while in harness.

She rides right up the vertical sides of skyscrapers, reaching the roof before jumping the bike up through the helicopter, killing the crew, & rocketing out the other side to crash through an office window, getting up & walking away; a stunt that Wolverine did later in one of the X-MEN Marvel movies.

Just before Violet delivered the case to her Hemophage cronies, she took a peek at it. It was a human boy in molecular stasis. She is informed by the leader of her subversive band that the case holds both a weapon & a human boy; that his blood contains antigens that could be weaponized, & once airborne would kill every hemophage. Against her wishes, as she exits, the child is shot; but oh Mama, Violet has stashed the real child, called Six, & they are on the run; this gives us a chance to watch her engage in three more fight scenes where she wipes out security, police, & soldiers.

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Cut to a hidden 18-wheeler where her friend, Garth has a research lab. He is the one who infuses her will peptides & moose juice that gives her special abilities. He does tests on Six, revealing that the child has no trace of antigens in his blood, so he has no value to anyone–has only 8 more hours to live, & has a tracking device implanted in him.

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Violet believes, somehow that the child’s blood can be reversed engineered, & a cure could be developed to save all the hemophages. She contacts Daxus, sets up a meet, to bring Six to him; he has told her a) the boy is his son, & b) the boy is one of 8 clones of him (as a fucking 12 year old child?).

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She drives up to the Ministry, where he awaits with 200 soldiers. As she gets out of the car, he asks her, “Are you mental?”. Then he tells her the child’s blood contains an antigen that when weaponized would kill humans. The Hemophages were all but extinct so this new threat would line up humans willing to pay for the antidote injections.

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As a thousand bullets shred her vehicle, Violet seems unharmed. Daxus soon sees that she was only a hologram. Six wrote some kind of formula on a magazine page, & Garth is working on it.-

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Violet takes Six to one of the last playgrounds, & he begins to die in her arms. She weeps & her tears fall on his face. A gov-chopper hovers behind her. “What’s that sound?” he asks. “Nothing, dear, it’s just the wind.” Then the kid dies, making me cry. Daxus shoots her, & snatches the kid’s body “for more research.”

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Cut to Violet awakening. Garth has brought her back to life. She is not happy about that. So she gears up with a hundred guns & swords, & heads toward the Ministry. “Damn it, the boy is dead,” says Garth. “No, he is still alive; somehow I just know it.”

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Needless to explicate, Violet takes on hundreds of foes, gets shot to pieces, but finally enters the medical chamber before Six is dissected. “Is that all you got?” she asks him. Turns out, of course, he is a Hemophage too, & a formidable foe with a sword. They fight, she is winning. He snaps off the lights, she sets her sword on fire, cutting him in two, lighting the place ablaze, grabs Six, & escapes.

Earlier, her hemophagic tears has immunized him.  He comes back to life. Roll the end credits.

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As one might expect after the inept cold-ass condescending way the studio marketed the film, ROTTEN TOMATOES rated the film at 9% Critic’s Approval, with a 30% Audience Approval. IMDb rated it at 4.4 stars.

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Rob Nelson of the VILLAGE VOICE wrote: “Now we know that you could make a movie as thoroughly unprofessional as this one & still get it released in 3000 theaters.”

Anton Bidel wrote: “Undemanding, unengaging, & glaringly unoriginal, ULTRAVIOLET gives real comic books a bad name.

Joe Lozito of BIG PICTURE-BIG SOUND wrote: “Really, you can’t blame Ms. Jovovich for this clunker.”

James O’Ehley of SCI FI MOVIE PAGE wrote: “Director Kurt Wimmer claims to have written this film with Milla Jovovich in mind. I don’t know what she did to deserve this.”

David Edwards of the DAILY MIRROR (UK) wrote: “Lordy, Mama, this thing is just unspeakably bad.”

David N. Butterworth of REC.ARTS.MOVIES.REVIEWS wrote: “ULTRACRAPPY is more like it should be titled.”

Ron Gonsalves of EFILMCRITC.COM wrote: “ULTRAVIOLET is definitely worth a look–if not a listen or a thought.”

MY RATING: 

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First off, I utter my favorite mantra, “fuck the critics!”. Visually, conceptually, this movie hums with creative brilliance. It’s CGI matched to live action, which for its time, was very exciting to watch. It’s art design, musical score, use of ultra-bright colors set & costume design were first rate; that & a cast of hundreds, versus the modern cast of a dozen surrounded by thousands of CGI characters, put its big budget right up there on the screen.

I think if you like gaming, you will love this movie, or if you like martial arts/yakusa/samurai/fantasy/sci fi movies, you will eat the crotch out of, & have sex with this movie. If you like to drink some when viewing such fare, your senses will be altered, your mind expanded, your genitals stimulated, & your stoned pleasure centers will be on fucking meltdown. It has all the imagination of a 5 star Anime feature, all the excitement of a popular video game.

I think SONY studios should be held accountable for the butcher-editing, the piss-poor marketing, the arrogance, fear, & poor judgement of not making it available for critic’s screenings & reviews. I had seen it nine years ago, right after being impressed with Wimmer’s  EQUALIBRIUM (2002). But this time, taking time to savor it, study it, view all the special features, I found myself going renegade & rogue, & flying low in the ignorant face of the few critics who panned it, misjudged it, saw it with jaded predisposed eyes.

I would love to have seen the full 120 minutes of the true director’s cut, spending more time with Violet Song Jat Shariff while she was human, getting a better grip on Garth, the Techie, & Daxus, the Vice Cardinal. Perhaps there may even have been a clue as to the real identity of young Six, the clone-child. I am proud & pleased to curl back my lips, hold my head back, & howl out that this film is deserving of 8 stars out of 10; a rousing HH accolade, rife with kudos.

 

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