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Resident Evil

movie review out of 4

*Also starring: James Purefoy, Colin Salmon, Eric Mabius, Heike Makatsch, Michaela Dicker, Pasquale Aleardi

Reviewer Roundup
1.  Harvey Karten review follows ---
2.  Steve Rhodes read the review movie reviewvideo review
3.  Dustin Putman read the review movie review
4.  Edward Johnson-Ott read the review no stars

Review by Harvey Karten
No Rating Supplied

Talk about strong female roles! As zombie-slayer Alice from the municipality of Raccoon City, Milla Jovovich makes Buffy look like a housewife from the town of Stepford. You wouldn't know it to look at her, at least in the beginning of "Resident Evil," where she lies barely conscious and, oh yes, virtually naked in her shower, but she does get to kick considerable butt and save the day for, well, for herself at least because everyone else seems to wind up either dead or undead.

If "Resident Evil" were not derived from the game which was produced and created by Shinji Mikami and Yoshiki Okamoto beginning in 1996 (with sequels in 1998 and 2000), we'd be tempted to say that the plot, such as it is, was torn from today's headlines. Here in the U.S. we've been through an anthrax scare that appears to have died down for now, and there's been considerable talk about the potential of the Axis of Evil's alleged experimentation with nasty biological warfare. Anyone who thinks that the U.S. is not preparing to counteract with similar germane ideas is living in la-la land but the way this movie's writer-director, Paul W.S. Anderson, seems to lean politically, such activity on our part would not be very nice. He goes with the scenario that the five hundred scientists and support people working underground in a Raccoon City lab (created mostly in Berlin's Adlershof Studio) are pursuing cures for disease in the pay of the huge Umbrella Corporation. Actually, though, they are working as well on military doings, specifically on viral techniques for killing the enemy. The virus is not as deadly as the one conjured up by Terry Gilliam in "12 Monkeys" but an accidental leak forces the Red Queen which is the supercomputer itself to make sure that none of the five hundred scientists gets out to infect others. The facilities are sealed and most people die within minutes. The juiciest death is in something that Disneyworld could use to update its Tower of Terror: an elevator that shafts its passengers, guillotining one of the hapless riders before our eyes.

The opening scenes are the most effective, principally because they almost make sense. The people are human beings, they are panicked in a way that we can all imagine that we would be in a similar situation (such as if you were in the World Trade Center on 9/11), and the weird creatures have not yet emerged. Once the ghoulish demons rise up, having had their cells regenerated by the, oh, whatever, we're no longer in Raccoon Land but in dud city. You've seen 'em all before (in my own situation beginning with Edward L. Cahn's less-than- frightening movie "The Zombies of Mora-Tau").One creature without a lick of scare-ability, the Licker, is nothing more than the octopus-like critter that springs from people's stomachs in half the other undead movies.

We do get to see a lot of Milla Jovovich, particularly since she favors mini-outfits, though for real acting we're better off watching Michelle Rodriguez in the role of Rain, sporting the signature scowl with which she opened the superior piece of filmmaking, "Girlfight." I suspect that the game fans would have a decent time of it all if they could manipulate their joy sticks or whatever they call the interactive gadget nowadays to mow down the Undead (who, by the way, can become Dead-Dead by breaking their spines or shooting them in the head). Without such interactivity, however, "Resident Evil" can be grooved on for Marco Beltrami and Marilyn Manson's original score, but outside of the first fifteen minutes when most of the actors are human, the movie is as scary as a ride through the Coney Island fun house.

Copyright 2002 Harvey Karten

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