Resident Evil (Paul Anderson)
Directed by 2002

Starring Eric Mabius James Purefoy Martin Crewes Michelle Rodriguez Milla Jovovich

The best that can be said about "Resident Evil" is that it is, in fact, a zombie film. That's a major, major, major plus for any movie, particularly one out of Hollywood. The zombie genre has been moribund since the mid- to late-1980s, gasping its last final breaths with the end of the "Return of the Living Dead" series. Sure, a couple of low-budget clunkers like "The Dead Next Door" have been churned out since then. But, for the most part, zombies haven't been part of the horror scene in a long time.

In its best moments, "Resident Evil" offers up some pretty nifty Romero-esque moments, where paramilitaries find themselves overwhelmed by an army of flesh-eating zombies. Its during these minutes of screen time we are reminded what we loved about George Romero's zombie films. In fact, Romero himself was slated to write and direct this movie, but his script was sadly rejected.

Which brings us to the negatives about "Resident Evil": Anderson, unlike Romero, is a soulless, humorless director and writer. Like his much superior "Event Horizon," "Resident Evil" takes itself too seriously. Unlike "Event," "RE" has a moribund cast led by Jovovich, who is gorgeous, but lacks the likeable personality of even, say, someone like Natasha Henstridge. While "RE" is clearly influenced by "Aliens," as much as it is on Romero's films (upon which the "RE" video game itself shamelessly borrowed), it lacks the humanness of that movie's characters. Bottom line: If you're going to have a fun action pic (which is what "RE" clearly strives to be), you need damn likeable characters. There's nothing to like in any of the people featured in "RE." To make matters worse, the film has an annoying synthetic industrial-rock score that seems to mirror the lifelessness of the actors.

Based on the video game, "RE" takes place in the future, where a huge multinational corporation is conducting scientific experiments in an underground laboratory. When the corporation's main computer seems to go insane, locking the firm's employees underground and killing them by flooding their offices, a paramilitary team is sent in to shut the computer down. Jovovich plays one of the agents, who is suffering from amnesia and can't remember who she is. But her paramilitary team members assure her that she is one of their number and she goes along with them, learning about the mission as she goes.

It isn't long before the military tough guys run into an army of flesh-eating zombies. Seems a deadly virus was unleashed, forcing the computer system to try to seal up the facility so that it wouldn't spread to the outside world. The paramilitary grunts try to survive as flesh-eating zombies come at them from every direction. Some of the zombies are even blood-thirsty dobermans. To make matters worse, a CGI-animated monster is also on the loose. And the corporations mainframe computer is trying to kill them as well.

I'm going to recommend this movie because it does feature zombies. But it's surprisingly un-gory. Watching it will make you hunger for gore fests like "ROTLD" and the original "Dawn." The amnesia storyline also is trite and the "twist" it inevitably delivers is visible from a few hundred miles away. As I mentioned earlier, the characters reek. All in all, "RE" is a must for zombie fans, only because that sub-genre sees so few films these days. But "RE" could have been so much better, and one wonders why the producers chose not to go with Romero, who undeniably would have given the material justice. Like the video game, "RE" does have some cool concepts going for it. But it's too weighted under by the lifeless direction and writing. The film also lacks that essential ingredient to any successful zombie film: gallons of gore. The zombies aren't even in much of the movie.

Worth catching, just for the sake of seeing Romero-esque flesh-eating ghouls at it again. But go in with the lowest of expectations.

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-- Review by Lucius Gore

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