Resident Evil: Apocalypse

(2004) * 1/2 R
93 min. Screen Gems. Director: Alexander Witt. Cast: Milla Jovovich, Sienna Guillory, Oded Fehr, Mike Epps, Jared Harris.

Though many assume that Roger Ebert is the hallowed dean of current film critics, an argument can be made for Joe Bob Briggs, the Texan wag behind "Drive-In Reviews." With apologies to Joe Bob, Resident Evil: Apocalypse is the sort of movie crying out for a Drive-In Review:

Countless dead bodies. Six breasts. Multiple bullets to the head. Blood-red zombie vision. Multiple human chew-toys. Nekkid zombie chicks. Blood-drinking. Neck-chomping. Death by jugular-sucking. Profane brother-man. Beer-swilling cowboy zombie-sniper. Demon dogs. Highly unusual School Lunch Program. Two razor-sharp helicopter pieces careening toward heads. Gratuitous accents. Gratuitous fetal positions. Kung Fu. Festering-wound Fu. Graveyard Fu. Drive-In Academy Award nominations for Milla Jovovich, as the mutated heroine who uses "I'm not contagious" as a pick-up line; Mike Epps for creatively working the "F"-word into every single one of his lines; and writer Paul W.S. Anderson (writer-director of the first Resident Evil flick) for setting the whole damn thing in Raccoon City. Three stars. Joe Bob says check it out. I'm guessing he'd want you to check it out, anyway.

As for me, I'm not so sure. Resident Evil: Apocalypse is bad, no doubt about it, but it's a hell of a lot more entertaining than Resident Evil, so that's a start. Director Alexander Witt gives the proceedings a splashy look that's admirably brighter than the action-horror norm, despite the fact that almost the whole movie takes place at night. The various episodes (nearly devoid of character) are, briefly, diverting; call it "situation horror." The Resident Evil franchise—and make no mistake, the elongated ending promises sequels—arose from a video game series. Accordingly, Witt briefly approximates a first-person shooter as he coyly reveals an undead-shot babe to be...not Milla Jovovich's Alice, but Sienna Guillory's Jill Valentine, a "character" culled from the game.

The zombie pageantry is all very tired, unfavorably comparing to just about every zombie movie of the last decade except Resident Evil. The whole business is the result of a rampant "T-virus," whose true origin is revealed here; as before, the evil Umbrella Corporation stays busy with damage control and cover-ups of their multiple screw-ups. Anderson and Witt try to amp things up by adding two more breeds of zombie: adrenalized, lizard-tongued, mutant beasts and a mysterious creature with Robocop vision, packing a rocket-launcher and known only as Project Nemesis. The late-breaking showdown between Alice and Project Nemesis is stupid and clumsy, but then so is Alice's entrance into an infested church, crashing through a high stained-glass window on a motorbike. Blurting, "Move!", she back-flips, pumps hot lead at the creatures, and twirls her guns into her hip pockets. One-and-a-half stars. Groucho says skip it.

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