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All-too-familiar action, uninspired adventure mark 'Ultraviolet'

Violet, the central character in ''Ultraviolet," is almost as versatile as the actress who portrays her, ubiquitous pop culture chameleon Milla Jovovich. Violet is a sword-fighting, high-kicking, gun-sprouting mutant soldier; Jovovich, meanwhile, has been a folk-pop singer, beauty product hawker, and red-carpet fashionista. With the ''Resident Evil" films already to her credit, she can now unequivocally add action-flick superheroine to her resume.

With Kurt Wimmer's movie, Jovovich joins Kate Beckinsale, Charlize Theron, Halle Berry, Jennifer Garner, and Uma Thurman as the latest star to don a really tight leather catsuit and sensible high-heeled boots with which to kick the bad guys' faces in. And to avoid the nasty chapped lips that can come with racing one's motorcycle up the side of a skyscraper to elude the helicopters (more bad guys) after her, Violet/Milla wears a good amount of lip gloss.

Jovovich is bad, and not in a good way. She turns in an epically expressionless performance (maybe she thought it was one of her modeling gigs?) but she sure looks great deadpanning lines like, ''You're all gonna die," and ''Come and get it." Still, you'd expect more bright, pulpy life, if not believability, out of a comic-book character.

But this retread is certainly not all Jovovich's fault. Also to blame are the shopworn story, written and directed by Wimmer (writer-director of 2002's ''Equilibrium"), predictable special effects -- lots of ''Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon"-meets-''The Matrix" fight scenes -- generic techno-bombast soundtrack, and an airbrushed '80s ''Heavy Metal" comics look that veers from soft-focus ''Miami Vice" pastels to hypersaturated anime coloring.

The plot involves the ostracized, ghetto-ized vampire-virus-mutated ''Hemophages" (of which Violet is one) who, living in a 21st-century world governed by fear of disease, decide to strike back at those who would stamp them out. Violet is their only hope for stealing a superweapon from the evil Daxus (the familiar, villain-faced Nick Chinlund, honing his chops for a future Bond role), who's so coldly lethal that he can kill five soldiers while not spilling a drop from a cup of coffee.

Turns out that when Violet opens the case housing the weapon, which resembles a white toilet seat, inside is a 9-year-old boy submerged in sparkling water -- a dying clone, we later learn, who goes by the name Six (a very doleful Cameron Bright). Having been forced by the Daxus crew to terminate her own pregnancy years before, and not sure whether the lab-rat Six is the secret to the Hemophages' salvation or destruction, she feels compelled to protect him against would-be assailants.

There is the requisite climactic duel in the dark with Daxus, which gives Violet a chance to turn her weapon into a sword of fire; plus lots of stomped solar plexuses en route, and ultimately, a message of fragile hope for all.

Reportedly, the source of Wimmer's inspiration for the can-do woman defending the helpless kid from the baddies was John Cassavetes's 1980 film, ''Gloria." But Jovovich is no Gena Rowlands, and, judging by the laughably inane, stilted dialogue of ''Ultraviolet" (''Are you mental?" Daxus queries Violet as she's about to take on a 700-soldier army), Wimmer ain't no Cassavetes.

Jonathan Perry can be reached at RoughGems@aol.com.

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