Movie Review: Resident Evil
No doubt some parents will say that "Resident Evil" represents everything wrong with America. A few film critics might even say this zombie splatterfest epitomizes everything that's wrong with movies.
Sure, "Resident Evil" is proudly, unflinchingly violent and beats its audience into submission with a soundtrack several decibels too loud. And yes, it's a sequel-ready franchise, based on yet another video game and aimed at 14-year-old boys who aren't old enough to see the film under its "R" rating.
First and foremost, however, "Resident Evil" is a genre film, the cinematic child of James Cameron's "Aliens" and George Romero's horror classic "Night of the Living Dead."
It's an old formula in video game clothing, and far livelier than Simon West's sterile adaptation of "Tomb Raider." On its own terms, "Resident Evil" updates the zombie genre with an anti-corporate message while still scaring its audience and providing heart-pounding action.
Milla Jovovich ("The Fifth Element") stars as Alice, a woman who may or may not have something to do with the deadly contamination of a military research plant called the Hive an underground bioengineering experiment facility controlled by a mega-conglomerate, the Umbrella Corporation. She doesn't even know the truth herself, as her memory returns in bits after she's been gassed by the Red Queen supercomputer, the HAL-like digital guardian of the Hive.
Joined by paramilitary operatives (including Michelle Rodriguez of "Girl Fight") and a gun-toting wild card, Matt (Eric Mabius), Alice uncovers Umbrella Corporation's darkest secrets when its mysterious T-virus reanimates the inhabitants of the Hive as flesh-eating zombies. Alice and company, of course, are the blue-plate special and can be infected themselves with the slightest scratch or bite from the ambling undead.
Director Paul W.S. Anderson ("Mortal Kombat," "Event Horizon") crafts a picture seething with a modern too-coolness while genre-splicing the worlds of sci-fi, action and horror. By robbing his central character of a history, Anderson pins an entire movie on someone an audience can never really identify with. However, the short-term amnesia conceit allows viewers to experience the film as it unravels, from an almost first-person point of view.
On this count, "Resident Evil" is one of the few video game movies to truly re-create the gaming experience from the three-dimensional maps to the structure of encountering increasingly grisly and dangerous foes at higher levels of play.
Thematically, "Resident Evil" hums along on its anti-big business message, right up to a surprise and moralistic ending. However, it's never quite clear whose side the computer is on or why it gassed Alice in the first place.
As in video games, the characters are thinly drawn. But they are disposable anyway, though several scenes reinforce the value (and resourcefulness) of their life when characters choose a near-futile fight over suicide. This makes us root for them even more, wishing we could escape walking death so slyly and look as cool doing it.
Written and directed by Paul W.S. Anderson; based on the CAPCOM video game "Resident Evil"; produced by Bernd Eichinger, Samuel Hadida, Jeremy Bolt, and Paul W.S. Anderson; photographed by David Johnson; edited by Alexander Berner; production design by Richard Bridgland. A Screen Gems release; opens Friday, March 15. Running time: 1:40. MPAA rating: R (strong sci-fi/horror violence, language, and brief nudity).
Alice Milla Jovovich
Matt Eric Mabius
Rain Michelle Rodriguez