Imagine your basic fictional set-up: A situation of order or calm gets disrupted by an event and/or character and the ensuing story involves somehow re-establishing order or calm. Well, Resident Evil’s makers don’t believe in calm, unless it’s that oh-so-brief pause before a storm of montage, or the minibreaths between outbreaks of splatter and dread. This rocking action-film’s tension starts with the first image, builds to orgiastic levels of terror and gore, and hangs in the air of the closing shot like smoke from a funeral pyre. Resident Evil is the new speed-metal of action flicks and it’s no coincidence that its sound track is shot through with hooks from the likes of Slipknot, Mudvayne and Static-X.
Directed by Paul W.S. Anderson from a script inspired by the wildly popular video game of the same name, this stress-fest postulates the usual omnipotent American conglomerate (here called The Umbrella Corporation) conducting top-secret, illegal experiments with genetics and viruses, unleashing, of course, the usual devastating results. Anderson’s credits include bringing another video game, the infamous Mortal Kombat (1995), to the screen, but with much less success. He also shot off such bottle rockets as Event Horizon (1997) and Soldier (1998), but this time he’s his own screenwriter and his cast includes some mighty appealing talent: most notably Milla Jovovich (who popped eyes and blew minds in The Fifth Element) and Michelle Rodriguez (the sullen, powerful beauty of Girlfight).
Jovovich is brilliant here, anchoring the proceedings with a radioactive combination of sex appeal and determination that makes her the first credible new addition to the sisterhood of Sigourney Weaver (in the Alien saga) and Linda Hamilton (in the Terminator series): a woman never to be messed with. Rodriquez — cool, cocky, sneering — reincarnates the wise-ass Latina trooper made legendary by Jenette Goldstein in Aliens.
Awesomely visualized and with style to burn, Resident Evil draws on such panic classics as Night of the Living Dead and Aliens for its white-knuckle scenario. But the zombie hordes and reptilian conduits that it borrows from those masterflicks are combined with the gruesome “hellhounds” and “lickers” of the video game in a firecracker string of M-80 freak-outs that just won’t quit.
For heavy-metal humanists only.
George Tysh is Metro Times arts editor. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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