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Resident Evil: Apocalypse (2004)
Director: Alexander Witt

review by Jeff Young

After her appearances in Luc Besson's classic The Fifth Element (1997), and Joan Of Arc, casting Milla Jovovich as the amnesiac security expert Alice in Resident Evil was a no-brainer. She has the looks and the attitude, if not the acting ability, to play archetypal Hollywood heroines. Paul W.S. Anderson, the Newcastle-born filmmaker behind genre pictures Shopping (1994), Mortal Kombat (1995), Event Horizon (1997), and Soldier, is the screenwriter and producer of this inevitable science fictional horror adventure franchise-launcher. Anderson (who has added middle initials to his screen credits to help avoid confusion with Magnolia director Paul Thomas Anderson) directed Resident Evil but recently chose to helm Alien Vs. Predator instead of this sequel, handing it over to Chilean-born Alexander Witt (Ridley Scott's 2nd Unit Director of choice), prepped under the working title 'Resident Evil: Nemesis' until the release of Star Trek: Nemesis prompted a change to the more-fitting Apocalypse.

The basic plot of this sequel to Resident Evil offers more of the same enjoyable hokum. The utterly corrupt Umbrella mega-corporation unveils another good old-fashioned totalitarian scheme: they place Raccoon City under quarantine, to halt the spread of a bio-engineered plague, and the urban sprawl is scheduled for nuclear destruction to extinguish the spreading infection causing a rash of zombies (though, as with the first movie, the walking dead are never called 'zombies' here). Fighting a veritable army of bad guys, alongside the superhuman Alice, is feisty cop Jill Valentine, a role first offered to Natasha Henstridge, but played by Sienna Guillory. Guillory was the poltergeist-haunted nanny in European mystery drama Superstition (2001), and portrayed the hero's tragic fiancée in The Time Machine remake. Allegedly voted the best-dressed policewoman in Racoon City, the lovely Jill wears a sexy outfit (reportedly derived from her character's impractical dress code for videogame Biohazard 3) and, by obeying the familiar eye-candy rule of 'don't do anything, just stand there', she's still a magnetic presence throughout the quieter scenes.
Just shoot it, and let's get outta here! Milla Jovovich, Sienna Guillory, and Sophie Vavasseur trying to escape urban hell in Resident Evil: Apocalypse


No movie based on a videogame would be complete without a 'mission: impossible' for the heroes to accomplish before time runs out. This is provided by wheelchair-bound Dr Ashford (Jared Harris) - about the only character in this non-stop action movie with a sitting-down job, who wants someone (anyone will do!) to rescue his daughter, schoolgirl Angie (Sophie Vavasseur), from inside the city walls. TV journalist Terri (Sandrine Holt) joins Alice and Jill on their rampage through the varied cemetery, school classrooms, office block, and backstreet locations. Our heroines compete with paramilitary combat squads to see who can blow away the most cannibalistic scum, but they also have to cope with the hysterically overreacting tactics of Umbrella's conspiracy, which means tackling the nasty corporation's deployment of their secret weapon, Nemesis (Matthew G. Taylor), a truly monstrous Frankensteinian creation that resembles Rawhead Rex's ugly cousin, armed with its own portable arsenal - such as that essential war-zone fashion-accessory, a bullet-spewing mini-gun. Nemesis is part RoboCop, part Cenobite, and provides even super-soldier Alice with a tough challenge for the film's duel-to-the-death climax.

Naturally, the film is at its best when focusing upon action set pieces of visceral energy and spectacular visual effects. It's pointless to criticise these Resident Evil actioners for their lack of believable characters, logical plot development or coherent drama. Such popcorn movies as these are concerned only with the stylised antics of their kick-ass starlets. Despite some amusing, scenery-chewing performances by the likes of Thomas Kretschmann and Iain Glen, as the top villains, and watchable role-playing by Mike Epps as the primary comic relief, Witt's thriller is really a stunning showcase for sexy girls with big guns. If you want to see Jovovich ride her motorbike through a church window, and shotgun the hideous creature-freak that's menacing lesser mortals trapped between the pews and aisles, this is certainly the film you've been waiting all year for!

Expanding upon the underground bio-weapons lab backdrop of Resident Evil, this sharply-edited and faster paced follow-up goes crashing through its nightmarish urban noir scenario, and fulfils its potential for delivering hardboiled thrills with fearless female champions saving innocents, to win the current battle, if not their entire war. Unlike most genre sequels, 'Resident Evil 3' should be worth the wait.
Resident Evil: Apocalypse

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