Resident Evil (2002) / Action-Horror

MPAA Rated: R for strong violence, gore, language and sexuality/nudity
Running time: 101 min.

Cast: Milla Jovovich, Michelle Rodriguez, Eric Mabius, James Purefoy, Colin Salmon, Ryan McCluskey, Oscar Pearce, Indra Ove, Martin Crewes, Jason Isaacs
Director: Paul W.S. Anderson
Screenplay: Paul W.S. Anderson

Review published September 23, 2007

The words "based on a video game" have yielded mostly negative connotations among critics and viewers looking for fare with depth.  The Resident Evil series of movies is based on the games that are already striving for a cinematic feel, each game borrowing its own style from movies (mostly B-movies) that those with a liking for visceral horror immediately react to.  While the games are a little heavier on atmosphere and horror thrills, the script by director Paul W.S. Anderson (Soldier, Event Horizon) peppers it up for a more action-oriented feel.  The result is a movie that provides oodles of eye-candy fighting and mild gore, but outside of some plot twists mostly derived from the game it is based on, offers little of interest from a story or character standpoint. 

The plot involves an amnesiac named Alice (Jovovich, Zoolander), who wakes up to find the mansion she is inhabiting is raided by a gung-ho militaristic group.  This group has been hired by the Umbrella Corporation, the most prosperous of all world companies, She is essentially drafted into a mission to infiltrate a massive underground lab beneath the mansion dubbed The Hive, and which apparently she had been genetically engineered, along with supposed husband Spence (Purefoy, A Knight's Tale), to protecting the entrance of.  The reason for the infiltration is that someone accidentally has unleashed the dreaded T-Virus, a deadly agent that reanimates dead tissue that the corporation had been working diligently on, and being disseminated to the entire complex through the ventilation system, the effects of the virus soon become evident. 

The complex is controlled by a sophisticated artificial intelligence presence known as the Red Queen, whose defense mechanism upon danger is to kill everyone in the complex, which, thanks to the T-Virus, brings them back to "life" in the form of zombies.  It's up to the small band of mercenaries to find their way to destroying the Red Queen before they are destroyed, while also watching out for the hordes of deadly reanimated dead whose only instinct is to kill for human flesh.

Although I've played the first "Resident Evil" game back when they ported it to the PC, way back when, I never got much into its story, merely looking for some escapist action and a few nasty scenes causing me to keep on edge.  In this way, I suppose that Anderson's Resident Evil adaptation is successful in capturing some of the basic pleasures of the video game, even if it falls short of being an original and entertaining film.  I'm curious as to why someone would want to see a linear depiction of things you can in a video game, especially when the game itself has the benefit of your interaction and an immersive environment,. The film made its money back and then some, so I guess there is a market for this. 

The action is relatively efficient, with Jovovich performing fine in a mostly physical role.  The actors are mostly cast according to looks over evident personality, which does become a liability later on during moments when they are in peril.  It's hard to feel anything as each one becomes a potential meal for the decrepit-looking zombie attackers.  Anderson dresses it all up with lots of pornographic gun displays and explosions, churning out the scenes of horror and fisticuffs in predictably regular intervals.  Marilyn Manson contributes to the score, along with traditional rhythm by Marco Beltrami (The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys, Joy Ride), with his intense electronic vibe

Resident Evil isn't much more than genre clichés tossed into a blender, lifting plot devices and themes straight from films like Aliens, Dawn of the Dead, and The Matrix.  It's a slickly directed piece that offers an interesting visual aesthetic, even if the glossiness doesn't always make the film encroach into believability.  Basically, if you like surface pleasures without the nasty overhead involved in being stimulated into heavy thought, it might keep you pacified for the duration.  As for me, I'd rather play the game instead, which at least gives me the same goods, while also puzzles that actually require me to think and action that forces me to react much more than this "demo version" ever manages.

-- Followed by Resident Evil: Apocalypse (2004), Resident Evil: Extinction (2007), Resident Evil: Afterlife (2010) and Resident Evil: Retribution (2012)

Qwipster's rating:

©2007 Vince Leo