Directed by Paul WS Anderson starring Milla Jovovich, Michelle Rodriguez, Eric Mabius and James Purefoy
'Super Mario Bros', 'Mortal Kombat', 'Tomb Raider', games fans have really suffered when their heroes have moved out of their darkened bedrooms and into the theatres. Mercifully, Anderson's second tilt at bringing a video game to screen ('Kombat' was the first), offers some consolation. It's not great, but there's enough in it to suggest that with a little more imagination, this could turn into a decent annual franchise.
Having tinkled in the gene pool for far too long, the multinational Umbrella Corporation finds itself with a crisis PR job when a deadly virus is released in its underground research facility, The Hive. A team of wise-assed, tooled-up company soldiers (Rodriguez being the most interesting) are dispatched to shut The Hive down, picking up amnesia victim Alice (Jovovich) along the way. But once underground, things go downhill even quicker, with the troops discovering that the Hive's late employees have come back to life. Cue loud bangs, carnage and Alice's rediscovery of her scissor kickin', pistol packin' day job.
It has neither the class of James Cameron's Sci-Fi work or George A Romero's gorefests but 'Resident Evil' is an entertaining mishmash of the two directors as Anderson trots out the crinkly horror movie conventions with some nice visuals thrown in. The first half hour is really well done as you wander from scene to scene as bewildered as Umbrella's hired guns, never sure of what's hovering above in the air vents or hiding in the lift shafts. With the emphasis on jolts and gasps, the characterisation suffers, but there's plenty in the opening sequences to make you laugh nervously at every line of dialogue.
Once Jovovich gets her groove back however, 'Resident Evil' loses that certain something with Anderson rushing the proceedings when he really had the audience's hearts and lungs in his hands. Characters get picked off far too quickly, the action sequences need more bullets and beatings and the showdown you're waiting for turns out to be a major disappointment. It's always watchable, but Anderson should've taken an extra half hour to pad out the story and match the tension of the first 30.
Jovovich does a fine job as the hero in boots and a ball gown and while Rodriguez isn't given enough freedom as the up-for-anything grunt, you can't really find fault with any of the actors desire to get into it. And, wisely, Anderson keeps the dialogue on the minimal side, thus avoiding many of the cornball exchanges that hamper the horror/action hybrids.
It's highly likely that those who have lived the game are going to find plenty to wind them up and will have their trigger fingers pointing in indignation at the screen. But the closing image - where the last woman standing faces the world with just a shotgun for company - will have even them wondering when the sequel will be coming out.
Don't expect 'Aliens' but don't resign yourself to 'Ghosts of Mars' either.