No life in 4th ‘Resident Evil’

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By Ethan Gilsdorf
Globe Correspondent / September 11, 2010

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So nonchalant is “Resident Evil: Afterlife,’’ the fourth movie in Paul W.S. Anderson’s dystopian franchise, that its overarching premise isn’t explained. The plague of undead swarming the planet is a fact of life. They’re annoying, to be swatted like pesky flies, though it’s best to use an Uzi.

In the previous flicks, Alice, the heroine, played by surly and svelte Milla Jovovich, developed superpowers (and clones), thanks to some, uh, mutation or other plot hole. In case you missed the back story: the nefarious Umbrella Corporation accidentally let loose a genetic experiment, the T-virus, intended to prolong life. Its unfortunate side-effect? It reanimates dead cells. Hence the zombie apocalypse.

But poor Alice. This time around, her awesomeness has been taken away by Umbrella chairman Albert Wesker (Shawn Roberts), the baddie because he wears sunglasses and speaks in a vaguely British accent.

They fight, and a now-mortal Alice escapes, commandeers an airplane, and meets old buddy Claire Redfield (Ali Larter, conveniently suffering from amnesia). An enigmatic radio signal leads them to what’s left of Los Angeles.

Buzzing over a smoldering H-O-L-L-Y-W-O-O-D sign (nice touch), Alice and Claire land on the roof of a prison, where survivors — actors and producers in tight tank tops — hold back a tide of undead. The posse escapes, blazing its way to an offshore tanker, possibly home to more survivors and definitely home to grosser stuff like zombie Dobermans whose heads split open to reveal toothy tentacles.

As with each iteration of a PlayStation or Xbox game, you’d expect the next movie-franchise sequel to offer surprising plot zigzags and state-of-the-art visual effects. No such luck with “Resident Evil: Afterlife.’’ Anderson goes for the hat trick, producing, directing, and writing this one, after letting others helm the two previous episodes. His camera suffers from ADHD, shifting its perspective constantly, and his slow-motion action scenes recycle that freeze/pause bullet-dodging effect we saw in “The Matrix’’ a decade-plus ago. The passé 3-D trickery — snow, throwing stars — doesn’t win you over, either.

But for films based on video games, these deficits aren’t necessarily deal breakers. The target audience (gamers) wants to see Alice dash, flip, and blast through zombie-killing scenarios. Just like in the game: Point, shoot, move to the next room.

“Resident Evil: Afterlife’’ satisfies this craving. The undead explode in hails of bullets and manic jets of blood. Violence equals redemption, and hope for the human race. All the while, Alice’s pale makeup and ruby-red lipstick remain intact. Even in the apocalypse, a gal’s war paint is sweat-proof.

Ethan Gilsdorf can be reached at

Directed by: Paul W.S. Anderson
Starring: Milla Jovovich, Shawn Roberts, Ali Larter
Running time: 97 minutes
At: Boston Common, Fenway, suburbs
Rated: R (sequences of strong violence and language)

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