RESIDENT EVIL: APOCALPYSE is the second one. Part 1’s Paul W.S. Anderson scripted it, but handed directing duties over to Alexander Witt (the second unit director for SPEED and the train heist in FAST FIVE) while he himself focused on ALIEN VS. PREDATOR, and it reminds me a little bit of the sequel to Anderson’s MORTAL KOMBAT: it’s way less like a real movie, but therefore kind of more fun. This sequel looks much more expensive than the original – there are huge crowd scenes, explosions and shootouts, it’s not all confined to some underground tunnels. It’s a chaotic mish-mash of styles (normal movie, shaky news footage, blurred frames) and crazy shit happening, often without much regard to rhythm, flow, or logic.
It starts out with a couple minutes of Alice (Milla Jovovich, HE GOT GAME) narrating exposition over flashy computer graphics, but as soon as the title comes up it ditches her and we go back to the day before in happy suburban Raccoon City while the T-virus crisis is going on underground. A menacing procession of identical Umbrella Corp SUVs plow through the streets to bring important scientists to safety. But Dr. Ashford (Jared Harris, NATURAL BORN KILLERS, THE BOXTROLLS)’s daughter Angie (Sophie Vavasseur) is in a vehicle that crashes, and she gets stranded above.
We meet Raccoon City’s militarized police force as well as a special unit called S.T.A.R.S. (“Special Tactics and Rescue Squad. They’re the best”). These are cops who do things like rappel from a helicopter facing straight down firing two machine guns accompanied by rockin electric guitar soundtrack. The kind of people you want, I guess, in a movie version of a video game version of a zombie outbreak. The most memorable of these characters is a wonderfully ludicrous one called Jill Valentine (Sienna Guillory, HIGH-RISE), an edgy suspended cop who looks like a model but luckily switches from stilettos to combat boots when she learns about the zombies from the news and goes into action. She spends the movie wearing a turquoise tube top, mini-skirt and holsters. There’s nothing wrong with that, but everyone else looks like they’re wearing movie costumes, and she looks like a cosplayer.
It seems like Alice wasn’t supposed to be in the first half hour or so, and then would’ve had an amazing delayed entrance. Instead they chickened out and re-used her waking-up-from-surgery-and-going-into-post-apocalyptic-city scene from the end of part 1, plus a brief new scene where she switches from a towel or robe of some kind to tough girl clothes, then remembers that they put some kind of implants in her. The other way would’ve been way better storytelling, but I guess I have to sort of respect this because I’ve always said it would be cool if after being barefoot in DIE HARD, John McClane had a different article of clothing missing in each sequel, and in one of them is just wearing a towel. Here they tried to do that and even used it for promotional art.
But mostly the first act is about Jill and how her and another cop (Oded Fehr, THE MUMMY) and a news reporter (Sandrine Holt, BALLISTIC: ECKS VS. SEVER) get trapped in a church and have to fight a swarm of zombies and three of those licker guys.
There are actually many parts in this one as fun as part 1’s highlight, the dog-kicking scene. But maybe my favorite is what should be Alice’s introduction, when Jill and company are trapped and suddenly Alice flies through the stained glass window on a motorcycle, skids out, does a flip off the bike, sends it driving and wheelying up onto the licker, fires two bullet time bullets at the motorcycle, blowing it up, then whooshity whooshity spins her guns and holsters them, but also kicks a pew into another monster and shoots it with a shot gun and a bunch of other show-offy shit.
And when she’s done saving all of their asses in the most spectacular manner anybody could imagine, Jill says bitchily, “Who the fuck are you?” Like Alice has rudely interrupted them or something.
Okay, if for some reason Guillory and Jovovich got into a fight, I’d put my money on Sienna, due to the important meat-on-the-bones factor. But Milla plays tough better because she’s improved at the grimacing and posturing by this point. Guillory’s self conscious pouting and smoking, combined with the silly Sexy Cop Halloween costume, never stop being funny.
There’s another group of characters, a bunch of paramilitary cops who hook up with “you can call me L.J., on account of the informal situation” (Mike Epps, NEXT FRIDAY), a wisecracking criminal who Jill freed from the police station so he wouldn’t get munched. You could argue that Epps is playing a buffoon, since he crashes his car looking at topless zombies, but he does achieve a few intentional laughs, so I liked having him around.
And there’s the Umbrella scientists, who watch everybody from a control room and send all their evil weapons around to test them. There is a monster called the Nemesis, who I think is supposed to be the other guy that survived part 1, but surgically turned into a giant muscleman cyborg monster guy who massacres most of the S.T.A.R.S. with a Jesse-Ventura-in-PREDATOR type gun. L.J. surrenders and says “Respect!” and the monster lets him go because his computers don’t consider him a threat.
One thing that makes this one way more fun than the first one is that Alice can do all kinds of crazy cartoonish CHARLIE’S ANGELS/HEROIC TRIO type moves, because “They did something to me.” This includes flipping and spinning weapons and rappelling down a building but pretending she’s running the whole time so it looks cooler. The great Spiro Razatos (who has done everything from the MANIAC COP series to the FAST AND FURIOUS series to CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR and MONSTER TRUCKS) is the second unit director, Ron Balicki (BARB WIRE) is the fight coordinator, and Diana Lee Inosanto (daughter of Dan “Sticks from OUT FOR JUSTICE” Inosanto) did some of the choreography. And it’s pretty playful with the story, so like there’s a part where a guy (Zack Ward, FREDDY VS. JASON) who’s maybe from the video game who does a bunch of badass shit (he kills one of those cool mutant dogs and then says, “Stay!”), then abruptly gets mauled to death just as he’s introducing himself.
Eventually all of the characters who don’t die band together and have a deal with Dr. Ashford to rescue his daughter in exchange for help getting out of the city, which is going to be nuked (I guess they saw RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD but didn’t understand that the plan didn’t work).
First the openly evil corporate/military bad guy (Thomas Kretschmann, HOSTEL: PART III) lures her in and forces her to fight Nemesis. She’s supposed to be a more powerful weapon, and this is the test. I guess it’s just like smart phones, they’re always trying to make the new model smaller and slimmer. They could fit three or four Alices inside that guy.
He actually would’ve won, though, if the dude hadn’t thrown Alice two swords. Not a sound product test, so I’m assuming he was part of the team that pushed this Alice project through, and had alot riding on it.
It’s kind of nice that after she impales the big monster dude she remembers it used to be her friend from part 1 and she gets really sad and refuses to “finish him.” That’s not traditionally video-gamey. I liked that.
APOCALYPSE has another cool, doesn’t-completely-make-sense ending sequence that sets us up for the next one, making this feel like a fun ongoing serial or soap opera. Like in part 1, there are two different parts where she’s naked and it represents her being reborn. The first one is a repeat of the second one from part 1, so she has been born a total of three times in this series. But this time she may have an evil resident in her, like that guy in the cliffhanger at the end of THE MATRIX RELOADED that I never quite figured out. I look forward to finding out what happens next.
VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.