Well, we don’t get Kate Beckinsale, but it’s more than made up for with the presence of Rhona Mitra. That should make any viewer happy. Filmed in New Zealand this 3rd entry in the Underworld franchise is surprisingly good. Len Wiseman (and Beckinsale’s husband) is in the producer’s, rather than the director’s chair. However, Patrick Tatpolous fills in without missing a beat. Tatopolus was the main man responsible for the gothic look of the first two films and his style matches what Wiseman set up rather well. The story is old-school, literally. There’s typical medieval elements such as a nasty king, a princess in love with the enemy, slaves and two warring races. The goodie werewolves (or lycans) and the baddie vampires are the difference though, and there’s a lot more lycans in this film, as the title, Rise of the Lycans suggests. As a prequel, it sets up up things nicely. Mitra plays Sonya, the daughter of vamp elder Viktor (the always delightfully oily Bill Nighy), and her love for Viktor’s fave lycan slave Lucian, played by Michael Sheen (from the excellent Frost/Nixon) is the film’s driving force.Viktor keeps lycans as his oppressed guard, rather than killing them. There is a Romeo and Juliet factor to the film, complete with a depressing ending and it looks very – blue. It’s great to see the blend of CGI and creature effects of the many lycans that show up. I was impressed and touches like Beckinsale’s bookend narration, and the greater inclusion of hulking actor/comic book writer Kevin Grevioux (who helped create the Underworld mythos) as recently turned lycan, Raze is also neato. The Underworld trilogy has been remarkably consistent.
Sadly, I can’t say the same about the Transporter series. Transporter 3 is directed by a man who sounds like a French Transformer – Olivier Megaton. Every Transporter film has the same plot. Frank Martin, played by buffness personified, Jason Statham agrees to deliver a package and against his better judgement opens it, the ruthless men who gave it to him chase him down and over the top fighting ensues. This film’s predecessor was a letdown, whereas the first film was a breath of fresh air. Of course, there’s some unique action scenes, in the vein of Jackie Chan, thanks to fight choreographer Corey Yuen, but the whole film just lacks sparkle. First time actress Natalya Rudakova appears as the damsel in distress and at first her freckley face is somewhat distracting, but you get used to it. It’s a poor man’s Bond with far less glitz, but a little more playfulness. Robert Knepper (Prison Break) and his wrist bomb explosive tech makes for a good enemy, but when it’s all put together it’s just not enough. I am happy to see the French (writer/director Luc Besson is the co-creator of the series) give Hollywood a run for it’s box office dollars however.