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Ultraviolet (2006): *½

Directed by Kurt Wimmer

Huh. This movie is an absolute mess. But what a fascinating set of choices.

As I was watching the movie "unfold" it suddenly struck me that, more than any other movie I've ever seen, Ultraviolet feels like reading a comic book. The closest any other movie has ever come is the brilliant Sin City. But while watching Sin City I still felt like I was watching a movie. While watching Ultraviolet I felt like I had a (rather average mainstream) comic book in my hands and was reading it.

I can't rightly explain it, but everything from the dialogue to the visuals to the pacing made the movie feel like a comic book.

And you know what? It doesn't work. At all.

I know the comic-booky feel is an intentional choice, because the opening credit sequence (which, by the way, is one of the most clever and fun opening sequences I've seen in quite a while) is a series of (nonexistent) comic book covers. The font that declares the end of the movie is comic book font. So Kurt Wimmer was obviously trying to make a live-action comic book. But all of the choices he makes in editing, sets, special effects, cinematography, and dialogue make the film feel like a comic book. Not a live-action comic book, either.

There are some ideas that are good on paper (this being a printed comic book after all). Violet has a device that can create arbitrary gravity orientations. She uses it at one point to walk along the ceilings of a building. At another point she uses it to make a motorcycle drive along the sheer sides of skyscrapers while trying to evade a couple of helicopters. A technology called "flat-space" that allows people to store weapons and such in little pocket dimensions, so you only have to carry around the hilt of your sword. When you need it, the entire three-foot sword pops out of the hilt. The flat-space technology can also deconstruct and reconstruct objects for (presumably) even more compression.

The best single sequence in the movie is when an unarmed Violet is attacked by a group of Blood Chinois on a rooftop and manages to kill them all simply by maneuvering herself in such a way that they all ended up shooting each other. This scene is a good successor to Kurt's brilliant "Gut Kata" scenes in his previous film, Equilibrium. This scene, the opening credits, and a handful of other things here and there made seeing the film rather enjoyable (though not always in a good way), which is what urged me to give it an extra half-star instead of just a one-star rating.

But the movie is pretty much a mess. The story centers around a very unspecific blood disease that seems to be some form of vampirism that gives you super powers but also kills you very, very, very slowly. The film moves in fits and starts so that no single event is really given any more weight than other event. The production values are shockingly poor, making the film look far more like a low-budget picture than it probably was (even if it does make it look more like a comic book). Much of the action seems to have been edited poorly (heck most of the film seems to have been edited poorly), and most of the closeups in the movie had a weird blur effect on them. It did make it look more like a comic book with big expanses of solid color, but I found it way too distracting.

It looks like all of the choices that Kurt made in the course of creating this film were made in order to create this very specific type of film. But much like a couple of Gus Van Sant's experimental films (like his shot-for-shot remake of Psycho, or Gerry), Ultraviolet doesn't really work.

At all.

After writing this review I went and looked up whatsoever information I could find about the movie, as is my habit. It turns out that Screen Gems took the movie out of Kurt Wimmer's hands in post-production and edited 32 minutes out of it. Some of the "choices" I mentioned above might not have been choices at all, but victims of sloppy post-editing. So it would seem that most of the suck factor of the film might rest on the shoulders of the assholes at Screen Gems, and not on Kurt Wimmer's. But Kurt still gets the blame for the poor-feeling production values. Can't save that with editing!

Hopefully Kurt will get the chance to release a director's cut that might make all the story and editing problems simply be nonexistent, and turn this mess into a good movie. I wouldn't put it past impossible; a half hour is a lot of screen time. But I haven't seen that movie. I've only seen the severely chopped down movie. I can only review the movie that I have seen, so for now the one-and-a-half stars stays.

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