I'm having trouble understanding the meaning of underwritten in this sentence

The actor plays a man who uses his disorder to balance books for criminals in a film that struggles to balance derivative action and underwritten romance

I searched dictionary for underwrite but none of the meanings makes sense when it's used as an adjective before romance

  • It's a pun for what the writer believes to have been a poorly-developed romance in a film about underwriting. Jan 10, 2017 at 10:27

1 Answer 1


It's a joke.

The two words derivative and underwrite have one pair of meanings in the financial context which is the movie's setting, but very different meanings in critical contexts.

The headline writer exploits this contrast to describe two of the reviewer's central complaints: a) that the movie's plot and characterization are entirely formulaic—derivative and b) that the movie's romantic subplot is perfunctory—underwritten.

  • 3
    I might even venture to say that it's a pun. Jan 10, 2017 at 10:54
  • 5
    @TeacherKSHuang You and StoneyB are really smart and I see great futures for both of you
    – Kevin
    Jan 10, 2017 at 13:35
  • 3
    @Kevin Glad you're so bullish! Jan 10, 2017 at 13:40
  • 5
    Agreed. Bear in mind that this use of "underwritten" in the context of a critical review is not common or standard to my knowledge (hence it not appearing in dictionaries); it's simple extrapolation from the "under-" prefix and the word "written", so it can be deduced to mean that not enough effort was put into writing it. It only really makes sense in the context of being a pun ;)
    – Muzer
    Jan 10, 2017 at 13:56
  • 1
    @Sabre The feeling's mutual. Jan 10, 2017 at 17:17

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