By Kurt Jensen
Catholic News Service
NEW YORK (CNS) — Kate Beckinsale squeezes into the black vinyl tights again as Selene, avenging warrior of the underground Vampire clan, and battles Lycans (werewolves) and predatory human scientists for "Underworld: Awakening" (Screen Gems), the fourth installment in the horror-fantasy series.
This time around, Selene awakens from 12 years in frozen suspended animation imposed on her by the folks at Amigent Corp. They’ve imprisoned her for the period humans know as "The Cleansing" but which vampires refer to as "The Purge."
She learns she has a daughter, Eve (India Eisley), from her assignation with a Vampire-Lycan hybrid in a previous film. Just how this birth took place isn’t quite explained.
Co-directors Mans Marlind and Bjorn Stein — along with screenwriting quartet Len Wiseman, John Hlavin, J. Michael Straczyinski and Allison Burnett — concoct a familiar and by now somewhat dreary formula of neck-bitings, stabbings, martial-arts kicks and more gunfire than Custer’s last stand.
Most of the film — which, at 88 minutes, is mercifully shorter than the previous installments — consists of Eve coming to grips with her vampire powers.
She also has to reconcile herself to the fact that Selene isn’t quite the maternal type – a discovery to which Selene herself responds, in a line worthy of Barbara Stanwyck’s Stella Dallas, "My heart isn’t cold; it’s broken."
Only fans of this series — and those incurably incurious enough never to wonder why vampires need all those guns — are likely to find any enjoyment in this episode.
The film contains stylized gun, knife and martial-arts violence and brief, shadowy upper female nudity. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III — adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R — restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.
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Jensen is a guest reviewer for Catholic News Service.