Has any actress wearing a vinyl S&M ''Matrix'' catsuit looked more demure than Kate Beckinsale? Underworld, a pulsating occult videogame thrill ride, chronicles a war between aristocratic vampires and oppressed rebel werewolves (excuse me, ''lycans''). It features Beckinsale with chalk-white skin, a pout that must have taken her centuries to develop, and damp hanging hair that makes it look as if she just got rousted from a beauty-salon throne. She runs around with twin guns blazing, but with that delicate figure and softly posh accent, she still comes off as the afterlife's saddest art student.
''Underworld'' is the sort of movie in which the head vampire telegraphs his evil by using a cell phone and dressing like the Kinks' Ray Davies in the early '80s. There are a few startling transformations, but mostly the battle between vampires and lycans is used as a heavy metaphor for racial discord. By the end, I was starting to ponder questions like, If a vampire mates with a lycan-vamp hybrid, which parent will have to convert?