Resident Evil (2002)
Directed by Paul W.S. Anderson

Artistic Value: * *
Entertainment Value: * * *

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After the Red Queen, the computer maintaining a secret underground research installation run by a powerful multinational corporation, decides to kill every person working there, a team of commandos is sent in to shut it down. When the group enters the mansion built over the entrance to the installation, they find a man and woman suffering from amnesia and another man claiming to be a police officer. Taking the three with them, the team descends into the subterranean complex, only to discover that a secret biological weapon being developed there has reanimated the corpses of the former workers, who now have an insatiable hunger for human meat.

Paul W.S. Anderson's Resident Evil does not so much have a story as a set-up, and his characters are completely forgettable, but, given that the movie is clearly intended to be an exciting adventure and that the inclusion of any other elements would have distracted from its focus, he can hardly be criticized for excising them. He has, in fact, made a simple, fun B-movie.

Even though it is probably best not to think too much about the details of the story Anderson tells in Resident Evil, the movie is so frenetic that it is always entertaining. Almost completely dispensing with any narrative or dialogue, or anything else that could distract the viewer from the film's impetus, Anderson focuses almost exclusively on a series of action sequences performed by his sexy protagonist. This woman, the female amnesiac (Milla Jovovich), identified as Alice in the credits, wanders through the movie dressed in black boots and a short, skimpy red dress and turns out to be a very deadly killer who is more than able to take on the hosts of undead foes who confront her. The presentations of her numerous fights with a succession of nasty opponents are the sole reason for which the movie was made, and the director has imbued them with enough repulsiveness, violence, and sexiness to make them enjoyable.

What is more, most of dangers with which the characters are faced after they have entered into the underground complex are competently if not memorably handled. For example, in order to enter into the room where the Red Queen is kept, the team is forced to pass through a hallway guarded with very deadly lasers, the effects of which are gruesomely revealed. Alice's fight with a pack of skinless reanimated dogs is vile, frightening, and, thanks to actress' athleticism, genuinely exciting. The attempts of the protagonists to escape an enormous, leaping, mutated creature with a prehensile tongue are weirdly exhilarating, and even their battles with the shambling, groaning zombies are fun. One such incident follows the next almost without interruption, and the film, as a consequence, rarely moves slowly.

The viewer who is appreciative of fast paced, action filled movies and is not particularly interested in a complex narrative will most likely enjoy Resident Evil. The movie is great kitschy fun, but it is nothing more than an entertaining diversion.

Review by Keith Allen

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