ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE GEORGIA STRAIGHT, MARCH 21, 2002
The TV trailer for Resident Evil features a scene in which a scrappy chick in a red dress takes on a pack of bloodthirsty mutant Dobermans that appear to have been skinned alive. The part where she runs up a wall and then twists around to level a roundhouse kick at one of the airborne beasts looks pretty cool, in a Matrix-meets-monsters kinda way.
Unfortunately, that kinetic run-in with the inside-out pooch is one of only a few worthwhile moments in this routine video-game spinoff, which borrows heavily from James Cameron action flicks and George Romero zombie epics but doesn’t do much else.
The Berlin-shot film is set in a vast underground research facility called the Hive, which is run by a faceless bioengineering conglomerate. When a deadly viral outbreak occurs, the building is sealed to contain the leak, killing all the unfortunate employees. That’s when the scrappy chick in the red dress (The Fifth Element’s ass-kicking Milla Jovovich) finds herself aligned with a group of gung ho commandos whose mission is to access the Hive’s supercomputer and isolate the virus.
While they’re doing that, we’re bombarded with endless shots of data flashing on computer screens, as if writer-director Paul W. S. Anderson was bent on getting his high-tech jollies at any cost. Nothing interesting happens until 40 minutes into the film, when three of the commandos become trapped in a corridor rigged with lasers designed to sever human flesh. But even that scene culminates in a slice-and-dice death that’s a direct rip-off of the superior Canadian sci-fi shocker Cube.
Once the Hive’s dead employees start popping up everywhere as ferocious, flesh-eating zombies, the film takes on the expected shooting-gallery aspect of the video game of the same name. Gore hounds will appreciate the homage to Romero’s Day of the Dead, and Marilyn Manson fans should groove to the metallic techno-industrial score cowritten by the shock-rock freak.
But those in search of resounding scares are advised to pass up the blustering Resident Evil in favour of the underrated Event Horizon, Anderson’s grim but gripping haunted-spaceship flick of ’97.