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"Resident Evil"

Directed by Paul W.S. Anderson ("Mortal Kombat).
Written by Paul W.S. Anderson. 
Starring Milla Jovovich and Michelle Rodriguez.
Release Year:  2002 
Review Date:  3/24/02 


One of the Bellview mantras is "If a movie is based on a video game, you have to go see it."  Suffered through "Tomb Raider", REALLY suffered through "Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within", and next up:  "Resident Evil."

I am glad that heretofore Hollywood has not touched any of my all-time favorite video games, for fear that they will really mess them up.  The Atari 5200 classic "Ballblazer", the arcade classics "Ikari Warriors", "Shinobi", "Out Run" and "Operation: Wolf" haven't been touched.  Lately, home classics for me that have included the "Wipeout" racing series, "Tenchu: Ninja Assassins", "Twisted Metal 2" and the best game currently available for home systems, "Grand Theft Auto 3", have not been placed under the knife of a Hollywood scriptwriter.

But, now that "Resident Evil" has (and, made big money in its opening weekend), I think that more classics are about to be unearthed.  The game of the same name is a classic--it spawned a ridiculous number of rip-offs, and it created the genre that is now known as "survival horror", games where a character goes into a situation with a pitifully few number of weapons and tries to outwit the competition rather than outshoot it.  In most adventure games up to that point in the mid-90s, they were either no weapons, all intellect games (like the classic "Prince of Persia"), or games where you could find an abundance of guns and other weapons to take down The Man.

I loved the video game "Resident Evil."  Great story, incredible graphics, and it made you resourceful as you took out enemies because there were simply too many of them to try and kill them all.  Whenever you ran out of shotgun ammo (and, it was often), running around different baddies without being able to put them down was always a chore.  The backstory for each of the two selectable characters was varied enough to keep you coming back to play the game over again, and the game was tough even on its easiest skill level.

The movie, however, leaves a bit to be desired.  The first problem with it is the story that director Paul W.S. Anderson ("Mortal Kombat") penned for the film; maybe he played the game, but more likely, he looked at the box art for the game and thought of how the evil Umbrella corporation from the game could be made into this artificial-intelligence driven nightmare.  So, gone are Raccoon City SWAT officer Chris Redfield and his partner, we get a group of cops (led by actors so minor I didn't even catch their names as they were being killed off) that infiltrate "The Hive", an Umbrella underground lab that has a HAL 9000 rip-off computer that is killing off scientists.  Luckily, the cops brought with them an amnesiac secret agent (Milla Jovovich, "The Fifth Element") that they found at The Hive's entrance that actually might be able to figure out what the hell happened when the supercomputer went haywire.

While the story is a waste and a disgrace to the game, the look and feel of the game in film has been captured.  Zombies have populated The Hive after a virus gets cut loose, and just like the game, there are way too many of these zombies to be killed by the cops.  So, they do a lot more running than shooting, and plenty of thinking of ways to break out of The Hive once their mission goes awry.  The slick-looking sets and some nasty-looking undead dogs help out, too, and the film does have a decent number of genuine scares and nasty decapitations.  And, the end of the film is actually a great one, because it sets up "Resident Evil 2" just like the video game does.

I actually thought this film was going to be worse, but happily, it was just average.  Hopefully, the almost-sure-thing sequel will bring out a better script.

Rating:  Matinee


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Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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The "fine print":
All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09