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(2006) (Milla Jovovich, Cameron Bright) (PG-13)

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Sci-fi: A mutant woman with specialized powers and skills battles a government leader and his minions who want her kind eradicated.
It's the late 21st century, and a military-based virus that was supposed to have created super-soldiers has instead infected common, everyday people. At first, the victims -- known as hemophages -- were shunned and made to wear identifying armbands. Later, they were shipped away to camps and then pretty much disappeared from sight. And now the government, led by Daxus (NICK CHINLUND), wants to eradicate the remaining ones, and his people have devised a weapon they believe will do the trick.

Little do they know, however, that the courier who's arrived to transport it is one of their targets. Once a wife and expectant mother who lost both her husband and pregnancy, Violet (MILLA JOVOVICH) is now a force to be reckoned with. Proficient at martial arts, able to partially neutralize gravity and possessing the ability to literally pull a bevy of weapons out of nowhere, Violet is Daxus' worst nightmare, and she hopes that whatever's in the case she now possesses might somehow lead to a cure.

But when she opens it up to take a look, she discovers a boy, known only as Six (CAMERON BRIGHT), rather than a weapon. With her survival and maternal instincts kicking in, Violet manages to get the boy out of the government complex and takes him to rogue scientist Garth (WILLIAM FICHTNER). Like Violet, he's one of the vampire-like Hemophages, but he has bad news for Violet. Not only does the boy not possess any sort of remedy for them, but also he's going to die within a number of hours.

With time running out, Violet does what she can for the boy and tries to prevent him from falling back into Daxus' hands, all while battling the leader's various minions as well as some of her own who have their own reason for wanting the boy.

OUR TAKE: 0 out of 10
I have no idea who first uttered the term "beat a dead horse" or when it was originally used, but I'd guess it had something to do with humans' earlier reliance on steeds for transport, racing and heavy, physical labor. Whatever the case, it's now known to mean "to continue or pursue a cause that has no hope of success" or "to dwell tiresomely on a matter that has already been decided." At this point, you may be wondering why this is the introduction to the sci-fi flick "Ultraviolet."

After all, there aren't any horses in it (although perhaps that would have helped, be that in "National Velvet" or "Godfather" vein). Nevertheless, the dead horse -- and beating thereof -- is simply a metaphor for filmmakers who keep shoving sci-fi and/or comic book tales featuring acrobatic and tough chicks in skintight cat suits down our throats.

Granted, like any red-blooded, heterosexual male, I don't mind the sight of such athletically trim yet curvaceous bods in such attire. But when they appear in the form of the main character in such genre offerings, that almost always means the resultant film is going to stink (interestingly enough, that doesn't always hold true for films where they appear as minor or supporting roles). And such is the case here where our dead horse, um, actress is Milla Jovovich who's no stranger to sci-fi flicks or doing stunt work in tight, revealing and/or skimpy attire (see also the "The Fifth Element" and the "Resident Evil" flicks).

In this blessedly short piece of flotsam (clocking in at less than 90 minutes including credits), she plays the title character (Violet for short) who lives in the late 21st century where genetically "contaminated" people are targeted by the government for extermination. Not wishing that to happen, she kicks lots of government butt (and looks rather fetching while doing so), but then faces an unexpected complication in the form of Cameron Bright.

He's the creepy kid from "Birth" and other films whose gaze is so piercing it should have a sci-fi film of its own (Perhaps that would be "Cameron Bright Eyes," another sequel to the original "Planet of the Apes" where he'd play Charlton Heston's mixed species son -- you see, the nickname given to Taylor by the chimpanzee Zira was "bright eyes" and...oh, never mind, I digress).

Then again, that couldn't be any worse than this offering from writer/director Kurt Wimmer who previously tried to mine somewhat similar material in 2002's "Equilibrium." Like that film, this one's supposedly heady sci-fi material is simply an excuse for all sorts of fleeing, punching, kicking, killing and more (although, sadly, the dead horses have been left out).

Unfortunately, what's been left in is the sort of awful special effects, wooden acting and atrocious dialogue that often give sci-fi a bad name for those who aren't into it. I happen to like the genre, but this is an over-edited, music video style mess that's neither interesting nor engaging on any sort of level, be that intellectual, visceral or even just voyeuristic.

The unoriginal plot is amazingly simple yet feels convoluted thanks to abominable storytelling that includes drama and "quiet moments" that are just as bad (and deadly -- for us) as the action. There's also a rush job in terms of the exposition (as if more important plot elements needed that resultant extra time) to get everyone caught up with the story. Even so, there are plenty of gaps that are simply brushed over such as a brief mention of vampires with some characters -- such as one played by William Fichtner who should have known better than signing on for this fiasco -- sporting stubby Dracula-like fangs.

Okay, I get the superpower bit (resulting in all of the martial arts and shots of Jovovich flipping through the air and landing in various outstretched poses), but why the vampire material, especially when that's never explained or used? I know, despite the usual genre trappings, it isn't supposed to make sense and we're really supposed to just sit back and admire the actress and her incredibly toned bod in those curve-hugging outfits (and designer eyewear she models during the fights, not to mention her groovy, mood-ring type hair).

Wimmer and his crew spoil even that, however, by applying some sort of odd, glossy airbrushing effect to her and most everything else, thus creating somewhat of a cartoon look. At first, I thought of a similar styling in "Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow" (where it worked), but then "Tron" and its glowingly smooth skin effects came to mind. After that, all I could worry about was whether there was going to be a tie-in video game just as occurred with that effort from many moons ago.

Perhaps the most shocking aspect, however, is found in the press kit. That's where it states -- and I'm not making this up -- Wimmer "was inspired to retell John Cassavetes' 1980 cult classic Gloria as a comic book action-adventure." Sure, there's the woman and boy on the run angle, but who are they trying to kid, and why pick a mediocre film as your source of inspiration?

The next thing you know, he might be moved by early Jane Fonda and thus mash "Barbarella" and "They Shoot Horses, Don't They" into a similarly tired and worn out, martial arts spectacle. But only if the horses are already dead. And have been beaten. Which is how you'll feel after watching this dud. In the real world, you can't see UV light. It's too bad that couldn't apply here. "Ultraviolet" rates as a 0 out of 10.

Reviewed March 3, 2006 / Posted March 3, 2006

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