Lovers of fake blood will find ''Underworld Evolution" a generous movie. The stuff runs, oozes, gushes, and sometimes just sits there, pristine as a country lake. Mel Gibson would have to tip his hat. But this is an unholy affair: The blood flows from creatures of the night. ''Evolution" offers a second helping of ''Underworld," a 2003 science fiction film in which werewolves and vampires are locked in a never-ending war.
They're still fighting in this sequel. But this is a more visually inspired, muscularly made movie than its predecessor, which starred Kate Beckinsale as a werewolf-slaying vampire called Selene. Her acting skills seemed to be beside the point: looking fetching in her tight black costume was enough. At the time, Beckinsale seemed to be throwing her career away, but that was premature -- no one had seen ''Van Helsing" yet. But ''Underworld" made her a star with goth geeks and boys who peruse lad mags, and she hasn't been near Henry James or William Shakespeare since.
Beckinsale is back in her sleek, rubberized outfit for ''Evolution," which wasn't screened for critics, and the bludgeoning and gliding through the air seem second nature now. In the first installment, Selene murdered a 1,400-year-old vampire. Now she's on the run from his minions in some crypto-Transylvania. But the story reveals a second chase: Selene and her half-werewolf, half-vampire lover, Michael (Scott Speedman), are being hunted by Marcus (Tony Curran), another vampire who wants to get his teeth in Selene. She holds the key to something he desperately needs. The script was written by Danny McBride, and while it isn't particularly interesting, I did like the idea that a vampire can read a fellow vampire's past by tasting his or her blood. (It plays in a drinker's body like a rewinding tape.) Otherwise, time passes here in eons of back story.
Len Wiseman returns as director, however, and the filmmaking is more confident. The action sequences, while overedited, are like a dream of how a live-action comic book should be. When he's not human, Marcus looks like a mucus-covered Nosferatu, but he brawls as if he is a dancer who happens to be on ''Ultimate Fight Championship." In one terrific scene, he flies after the truck Selene's driving with Michael the were-pire in the cab. No matter how many times Marcus is impaled or UZIed in the face, he keeps coming back.
The movie also exhibits a cool eroticism. Michael needs fresh blood to survive. And to save him, Selene once lets him drink from her wrist. Later they run from the sunlight and into each other's arms. Their obligatory lovemaking, however, suffers from being ordinary. Sucking on her wrist was hotter.
Wesley Morris can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.