Video game as motion picture works second time around
Welcome to Raccoon City (as usual, played by Toronto), playground of the evil-minded Umbrella Corporation, world’s largest producer of tools of mayhem. Curious as to what went down in their underground secret labs (as played out in the first Resident Evil movie), the suits send a team of biohazard troops down to check it out. Whoops, bad idea. Before you can say, “Do you want your undead shamblers or scramblers?” (RE:A isn’t sure itself at first, finally settling for the traditional shamblers), the T-virus hits the streets like a foul wind, creating an overnight City of the Living Dead, sealed off by the corporation and awaiting a nuclear cleansing.
Soon RE-veteran Alice (Milla Jovovich) goes back down the rabbit hole to wind up in the zombie-infested city, where she hooks up with video game stalwarts Jill Valentine (Sienna Gullory), Carlos (Oded Fehr) and various other zombie-bait as they are coerced by the creator of the virus to find his abandoned child, Angie.
Their numbers steadily decline as they encounter zombie hookers, long-tongued tooth-thingies and, of course, the ever-popular undead dobies. Fortunately for them, the Umbrella folks have biologically upgraded Alice into one deadass-kicking mayhem machine, as she plays Cocktail flippy-action with guns. Unfortunately, they’ve also unleashed Nemesis, a behemoth armed with a rocket-launcher and mini-gatling gun … and a bad attitude.
Because of Stateside union demands, Toronto has usurped Pittsburgh as Hometown of the Dead (the Dawn of the Dead remake was filmed there, as will be the upcoming fourth entry of the George Romero mythos, Land of the Dead). Because of this, these films’ milieus take on a certain familiar feel, especially overt in the opening scenes. Here RE:A compares unfavorably at first to the slam-bam pre-credits sequence of the DOTD remake, but it recovers quite adequately as the rotting flesh begins to hit the fan. Closer in feel to the video game’s look (especially with Gullory’s take on Jill Valentine; she walks the walk, talks the talk, a b-cup Lara Croft with a heart-shaped gamine face), I suspect that this entry will be more satisfying to the game’s adherents than the first.
As a stand-alone zombie flick, RE:A is adequate fun but plays a little loose with the internal logic (the virus suddenly picks up the ability to reanimate long-dead flesh). As the genre goes, this stays very light on the gore, relying instead on the action moves with some very well-crafted jolts and sound effect work.