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Resident Evil   C-

Screen Gems

Year Released: 2002
MPAA Rating: R
Director: Paul Anderson
Writer: Paul Anderson
Cast: Milla Jovovich, Michelle Rodriguez, Eric Mabius, James Purefoy, Martin Crewes, Colin Slamon.

Review by Michael Scrutchin

Resident Evil is a loud, annoying, and gloriously dumb action-horror movie that might have been a good popcorn flick if it were more fun. Instead, it's as formulaic and predictable as a high-gloss, no substance action movie can be, surprisingly devoid of a real sense of fun or any chills. It just ambles along with bland action set pieces sprinkled amid scenes of even worse dialogue. I can enjoy a mindless B-movie as much as the next guy (if you read my reviews, you should know that), but this film doesn't even satisfy in that respect.

The movie serves as a prequel to the popular Capcom video game series. The opening scenes take place in the Hive, the massive underground research complex run by the diabolical Umbrella Corporation. A vile containing a deadly virus is broken and it dissipates throughout the complex by way of the ventilation system. You'd think a laboratory dealing with deadly viruses wouldn't be connected with the entire complex through the air ducts, right? Well, you'd be wrong. Anyway, the virus escapes, so the Red Queen (the supercomputer that controls the Hive) seals off the entire complex, trapping dozens of employees inside, all of whom die.

While the movie then cuts to a reasonably creepy sequence inside a mansion, soon the main characters are ushered into the Hive (the mansion is connected, you see, by underground passageways) and they must try to isolate the virus and rescue any survivors. The cast includes Milla Jovovich as Alice, who was found in the mansion suffering from amnesia; Michelle Rodriguez as Rain, by far the toughest member of the task force sent into the Hive to check things out; and there's three guys in the cast who survive past the 30-minute mark, but they're pretty interchangeable. Most of the movie consists of the main characters shouting orders, explaining things, and occasionally getting ambushed by zombies (the dead employees, who have been reanimated by the virus). Oh, and there's pesky lasers and zombie dogs to look out for.

The scene where several characters are trapped in a bright, shiny corridor with a deadly laser beam is fun to watch and contains one of the coolest and most unexpected decapitations I've seen in awhile, but the rest of the film is far worse than its two or three pretty good sequences (including a cool, if unoriginal, ending that leaves the door wide open for a sequel). And while I can't deny the appeal of watching Milla Jovovich running around in a short skirt and jumping off walls to kick zombie dogs in midair, the film's mild pleasures are few and far between.

Director Paul Anderson (Event Horizon) gives the film a slick and polished look, and some credit should go to the production design team, whose sets are filled with chrome, glass, and shiny surfaces. Yeah, the movie looks pretty nice, but it still doesn't have a distinct or memorable style. It's glossy Hollywood filmmaking of the cookie-cutter variety.

By the time Resident Evil got around to the obligatory scene where one guy is trapped by the living dead and tells his comrades to leave him and save themselves, it became clear that there was nothing in this movie that would surprise me. I was right. And, boy, that industrial metal score sure was getting annoying by then, too. But, hey, at least the music managed to drown out some of the lousy dialogue every now and then.

Leaving the theater, I thought wistfully of Dawn of the Dead and wondered if we'd ever see another intelligent zombie picture with strong, believable characters. I realize it's unfair to expect Resident Evil to compare with George A. Romero's zombie films and I wasn't asking nearly that much from this film. And it still failed. This is, after all, more of an action movie than a horror flick. Oh, well. I'll be content playing Resident Evil on my Sony PlayStation. The game (which takes place in the creepy mansion that appears briefly in the film) still scares the hell out of me, but the movie didn't even manage to get my heart pumping.

Review published 03.22.2002.

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