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MOVIE REVIEW

Underworld Awakening 3D

New ‘Underworld’ refuses to soften its bite

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By Tom Russo
Globe Correspondent / January 23, 2012
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Vampires and werewolves are back at each other’s throats in “Underworld Awakening,’’ a sequel seemingly eager to assert that monster mashes are about B-movie chills not “Twilight’’ melodrama. Eager to a fault, ultimately.

After sitting out the series’ third installment, Kate Beckinsale wriggles back into her rubber catsuit as heroic vampire Selene, a “Death Dealer’’ tasked with eradicating enemy Lycans. Selene’s mission was complicated over the first couple of movies by her romantic involvement with vampire-werewolf hybrid Michael Corvin (Scott Speedman, oddly subbed for here). This time out, she’s sent reeling completely by a human purge of both supernatural species that lands her in laboratory cryo-freeze. (The frenzied, news channel-surfing opener never explains how exactly the humans got wind of the creatures’ existence, much as the original never bothered explaining their mutual preference for “Matrix’’-caliber guns over fangs.)

When Selene is suddenly thawed out 12 years later, she’s got no idea what’s happened to Michael, or what the pursuing lab guys want with her. Fortunately, she’s not so disoriented that she can’t still deal death efficiently, and more viscerally than ever. She also doesn’t initially grasp her psychic link to a young girl, Eve (India Eisley), although you won’t need to be psychic to beat the script to the answer. Among the characters in lathers of varying sorts over Eve’s special abilities: the lab’s duplicitous chief scientist (Stephen Rea), a hunky vampire resistance fighter (Theo James), and the hunk’s purge-whipped father (Charles Dance, channeling Peter Cushing).

Swedish filmmaking duo Måns Mårlind and Björn Stein (“Shelter’’) energetically render a transformed Eve as a sort of digital age Linda Blair, all creepy blue skin and demonic eyes. (It’s one of the movie’s better effects, along with Lycan-busting silver nitrate bombs whose detonation leaves a 3-D screen looking like an action-movie snow globe.) But the filmmakers make overly quick work of a good scene that has Eve questioning Selene’s lack of maternal warmth. Your inner geek is stirred to wonder: Would a vampire have that within herself? Would a vampiric assassin? Exploring the question might have made “Awakening’’ a movie with an identity, rather than the most generic entry of the bunch.

Tom Russo can be reached at trusso2222@gmail.com.

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Underworld Awakening 3D

Directed by: Måns Mårlind and Björn Stein

Written by: Len Wiseman, John Hlavin, J. Michael Straczynski, and Allison Burnett

Starring: Kate Beckinsale, Stephen Rea, Michael Ealy, Theo James, India Eisley, and Charles Dance

At: Boston Common, Fenway, suburbs

Running time: 88 minutes

Rated: R (strong violence and gore, some language)

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