×

Resident Evil

That venerable horror subgenre, the zombie movie -- immortalized by George A. Romero in his "Living Dead" trilogy -- gets a malnourished rebirth in "Resident Evil," the long-in-development screen adaptation of the hugely popular videogame franchise.

With:
Mr. Grey - Ryan McCluskey Mr. Red - Oscar Pearce Ms. Black - Indra Ove Dr. Green - Anna Bolt Dr. Blue - Joseph May Dr. Brown - Robert Tannion Lisa - Heike Makatsch Clarence - Jaymes Butler Mr. White - Stephen Billington Ms. Gold - Fiona Glascott Alice - Milla Jovovich Matt - Eric Mabius One - Colin Salmon Kaplan - Martin Crewes J.D. - Pasquale Aleardi Rain - Michelle Rodriguez Medic - Liz May Brice Commando 1 - Torsten Jerabek Commando 2 - Marc Logan-Black Spence - James Purefoy Red Queen - Michaela Dicker

That venerable horror subgenre, the zombie movie — immortalized by George A. Romero in his “Living Dead” trilogy — gets a malnourished rebirth in “Resident Evil,” the long-in-development screen adaptation of the hugely popular videogame franchise. (To date, there have been three game sequels, action figures and a series of books.) Despite a promising setup, pic never really goes anywhere, instead immersing viewers in a kinetic onslaught of flesh (namely, that of Milla Jovovich) and flesh-eaters (most of the rest of the cast). Game’s fervent fans have created a groundswell of anticipation for pic, which may lead to respectable openings Stateside and abroad, but video looks to follow quickly for this undead retread.

Co-written and directed by the young British director Paul Anderson (who, apparently to avoid confusion with Paul Thomas Anderson, now calls himself Paul W.S. Anderson), German-shot and financed pic works as a prequel to the games, although it uses many of the games’ popular zombie characters (with such indelible names as the Licker, the Crows and the Zombie Dogs).

Popular on Variety

Short prologue is set inside the sprawling underground research labs of Umbrella Corp., known as the Hive. Umbrella appears to be an all-purpose household company but is actually the front for a top-secret military technology and genetic experimentation operation. (It’s a subject fit for Romero, and he did write the first script and had been set to direct.)

Anderson (who directed the videogame adaptation “Mortal Kombat”) maps out the Hive’s infrastructure, satirizing the security paranoia. The Hive’s security is regulated by an artificially intelligent computer called the Red Queen (one of a series of Lewis Carroll allusions); 10 minutes in, the Red Queen locks down the Hive and begins a series of defensive measures (including releasing poisonous gas into densely populated workspaces). A deadly virus was released into the Hive’s ventilation system, and the Red Queen, who behaves like a menstruating Hal 9000, will do anything, ANYTHING to keep it contained.

Enter some soldiers, including One (Colin Salmon) and Rain (Michelle Rodriguez), dispatched to shut the Red Queen down. They’re accompanied by Alice (Jovovich), a soldier with a temporary memory loss, and by Matt (Eric Mabius), who claims to be a cop.

They shut the Red Queen down, but in doing so the Hive’s passageways are unlocked, giving free reign to hundreds of contaminated workers who, as a result of their exposure to the virus, are now very undead.

The manic zombie mayhem that ensues — unfolding “High Noon”-style in real time — is in many ways a scene-for-scene copy of Romero’s 1985 “Day of the Dead.” But, unlike Romero, Anderson fails to situate “Resident Evil” zombies within any larger social context.

Anderson’s script lines up all the elements for a B-movie quickie: the multiethnic cast, the chicks who kick ass and the traitor-in-our-midst scenario. But Anderson is too set on making an A-picture here, focusing on a series of exhaustingly routine big-action set pieces. Like the recent “Queen of the Damned,” “Resident Evil” seems conceived more out of a desire to provide lip service to fans of the underlying source material than to make compelling entertainment. Anderson’s zombie shenanigans are as empty as “Queen of the Damned’s” vampire theatrics.

Nonetheless, Anderson’s surface effects are occasionally admirable. Pic relies more on prosthetic makeup and animatronic f/x than on digital technology, giving pic’s zombies and other assorted monsters a more organic sense of form and movement.

And there are times where “Resident Evil” can’t help being funny, as when Jovovich slo-mo drop-kicks a rabid zombie Doberman. Jovovich is the big surprise here. Her Alice is hardly the plum part Sigourney Weaver had in the “Alien” films, but Jovovich convinces you that she could pull off a Weaveresque turn if given the raw materials, and Anderson’s camera caresses her every athletic-balletic movement.

Pic is reasonably accomplished technically, though Richard Bridgland’s production design is standard-issue futuristic grunge, recalling similar futurescapes from Anderson’s own “Soldier” and “Event Horizon,” as well as last summer’s “John Carpenter’s Ghosts of Mars.”

More Reviews

  • Eminem "Music to Be Murdered By"

    Eminem's 'Music to Be Murdered By': Album Review

    Eminem’s surprise album release may bear the Hitchcock-referencing title “Music to Be Murdered By,” but, yes, as you’d expect, “Music to Murder To” might be a more apt description. The 20-track LP, his tenth since soundtracking the turn of the millennium with 1999’s “The Slim Shady LP,” finds the Detroit rap legend in an alternately rancorous [...]

  • Allison Janney and Viola Davis appear

    Film Review: 'Troop Zero'

    You’ve probably seen a version of “Troop Zero” before. Whether that version was called “Troop Beverly Hills,” “The Mighty Ducks,” or an edited-for-TV showing of “The Bad News Bears,” it’s unlikely that anything here will be particularly fresh to anyone but the youngest of viewers. But novelty does not appear to have been high on [...]

  • GOOP

    Gwyneth Paltrow's 'The Goop Lab': TV Review

    “Being the person people believe me to be,” Gwyneth Paltrow says in the first episode of her new unscripted series, “is inherently traumatic.” The fact that this remark will likely induce eye rolls proves the point. Paltrow, in her period of fame as perhaps the most prominent embodiment of wellness culture, is followed as or [...]

  • VHYes

    'VHYes': Film Review

    Its slim premise involving a couple of 13-year-old boys having fun with a camcorder in the late ’80s, “VHYes” is maybe a little too faithful to their sensibility — being exactly what a kid raised on “Saturday Night Live,” “SCTV,” and maybe cable broadcasts of “Kentucky Fried Movie” would imagine as the coolest home-made movie [...]

  • The Wave

    'The Wave': Film Review

    A sort of “After Hours” update with a lot more drugs and time ellipses, “The Wave” throws Justin Long down a rabbit’s hole of sometimes hallucinatory, sometimes mortal peril when his button-down protagonist makes the mistake of celebrating a career breakthrough a little too adventurously. This surreal comedy from debuting feature director Gille Klabin and [...]

  • Mac Miller Circles Album Review

    Mac Miller's 'Circles': Album Review

    If you were cynical, you might think releasing a posthumous, pieced-together Mac Miller album 16 months after his passing from an accidental drug overdose would be just one more part of the current death march of releases from deceased young rappers with pleadingly emotive lyrics and sonically rock-ist edges. Like late Soundcloud emo-rappers such as [...]

  • EVERYTHING'S GONNA BE OKAY - "Seven-Spotted

    'Everything's Going to Be Okay' From Josh Thomas: TV Review

    One of the hallmarks of Josh Thomas’ particularly spiky and sympathetic sense of humor is how he takes a situation we’ve seen unfold on TV before and makes the bold choice to let his characters react like actual human beings. On his semi-autobiographical comedy “Please Like Me,” people struggled through depression and their gnarled feelings [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content