NB: these are my notes on the film, not a review – so you might not want to read them if you’ve not seen it yet.
It’s never a good sign when, a day after seeing a film, you have to look up the IMDb listing to remind yourself what it’s actually called. The succession of Resident Evil Colon Randomword sequels stutters on, with Paul W.S. Anderson back directing his signature franchise, though you’d think that even he would have other things to do, like – say – The Four Musketeers. After a ten minute, illustrated-with-clips story-so-far lecture from heroine Alice (Milla Jovovich, who divorced the guy who starred her in Joan of Arc and The Fifth Element for Anderson), this picks up from the closing of Resident Evil Colon Whatever the Last One Was Called (okay, Resident Evil Afterlife). Oddly, Anderson’s The Three Musketeers ended on a steampunk version of exactly the same cliffhanger – with an aerial armada lowering over the heroes. For want of anything else to do, the film plays its first big action sequence backwards and then forwards: a helicopter fleet commanded by brainwashed-and-not-seen-since-part-2 Jill Valentine (Sienna Guillory – whose dreadful dialogue delivery is not justified by mind control) attacks the big ship Alice was stuck on, wiping out or sidelining a bunch of characters from the last film who aren’t in this one to make room (goodbye Ali Larter) for a bunch of dead or redundant characters from earlier films who return here through the miracle of cloning.
Poor Michelle Rodriguez, who gets co-top-billing without much to do in multiple versions of the same role – she was killed off out of the Fast and the Furious series too and has had to climb back aboard that rickety franchise just as she’s back in this one; at this rate, she’ll be signing back with Uwe Boll for BloodRayne 4. And welcome back Colin Salmon, Oded Fehr, Boris Kodjoe and others, who mingle with newcomers incarnating ‘fan favourite’ (ie: no one else cares, least of all this film) characters – Kevin Durand as Barry Burton, Bingbing Li as Ada Wong, Johann Urb as Leon S. Kennedy – in a variety of meaningless, weightless, affectless battles with zombies, cyborgs, mutants, monsters and anonymous goons. Despite Guillory’s speech balloon performance, Urb takes the Worst Performance prize – he manages to seem more like a sub-par CGI representation of an actor than a real live person. The setting, which ought to be cool, is a massive submarine ex-Soviet facility with several Westworld-like simulated environments (Tokyo, Moscow, New York, Suburbia) for use in testing bioweapons. After a feint – essentially ripped off from the remake of Dawn of the Dead – in suburbia with clone Alice as mom to a little deaf girl (Aryana Engineer) who later gets attached to the ‘original’ in order to add something like an emotional tie, the whole film consists of Milla and her mates in fetish gear blasting away at the enemy avatars in noisesome rubbishiness until the coda which hops to a zombie-besieged Washington to set up yet another instalment two years down the line.
Anderson is, when shoved in a corner, a pretty fair action director and this series has the benefit of excellent art direction, some imaginative and detailed settings and the real presence of Jovovich … but Anderson the writer hobbles the enterprise with dumb, arbitrary, nonsensical runarounds. Could that glowing spider-machine stuck to Jill’s cleavage have anything to do with her mind-controlling? If so, why wait until after the big chick-on-chick martial arts battle in the arctic snows to try ripping the easily-accessible doodad off and restoring her character setting to good guy? How come Alice lost her superpowers in the last film and gets them back again at the end of this one, but can do exactly the same ass-kicking stunts she’s been doing all along with only a repeated (and never paid-off) reminder of her bleeding side-wound to indicate that she’s any different? Does Anderson really save up bits from other films – this has the x-ray broken bones bit from The Street Fighter – until he has enough to pad out the running time? Even in the context of a fourth sequel to a film adapted from a fucking computer game, isn’t Ada Wong’s thigh-slit cheongsam and high heels an impractical outfit for walking across a room let alone fighting zombies and escaping from an undersea base?