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RESIDENT EVIL
Deluxe Edition

Review by Michael Jacobson

Stars:  Milla Jovovich, Michelle Rodriguez, Eric Mabius
Director:  Paul W. S. Anderson
Audio:  Dolby Digital 5.1
Video:  Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1
Studio:  Columbia Tri Star
Features:  See Review
Length:  101 Minutes
Release Date:  September 7, 2004

“It’s coagulated.  That’s impossible.”

“Why?”

“Because blood doesn’t do that until you’re dead…”

Film **

I used to wonder whether playing a video game character was considered a low point for an actor, but judging by all the hoopla that originally surrounded the casting of Lara Croft in Tomb Raider, maybe I was wrong…it’s not just a job, it’s an adventure.

If any game was ripe for movie material, it had to be Resident Evil.  Here was a story with a little bit of everything…flesh hungry zombies, mutated attack dogs, wall scaling monsters, and heroes with plenty of fire power.  I’ve been a big fan of the games for a few years now, and have seen many a precious hour irretrievably sucked away by these frighteningly fun and maddening adventures.

Paul W. S. Anderson is a fan, too, and his script and direction made Resident Evil a film reality.  His vision is true to the spirit of the games, which I greatly appreciated, though he took some creative liberties in the margins.  The key ingredients are all here:  a ruthless corporation whose experiments in genetic and viral research have gone wrong, an underground laboratory accessed through a giant house, and of course, lots of blood and mayhem.

The company is called Umbrella, and as the film opens, one of their viruses is deliberately released in the underground lab.  The master computer, called the Red Queen, effectively kills all of Umbrellas employees in the lab and seals it off in order to prevent the spread of the virus.  No word as to whether Red Queen also put fresh want ads in the employment section in the process.

In the aforementioned house, Alice (Jovovich) is experiencing a birth-like awakening in which she doesn’t remember anything, but we don’t get much time for that old plot point as a crack team of operatives storm the house to gain entry to the lab in order to shut down the computer and determine what went wrong.

Once they get in, they find nothing but horror and madness.  The Red Queen doesn’t like the idea of being shut down, for one, and her defense system is quite capable.  The hall of razoring lasers is one of the best sequences, and I’ll leave it for you to discover.  It’s only the start of their problems, though, as they soon realize that the virus has an interesting side effect…namely, those former employees killed by the Red Queen aren’t staying dead…

The picture is basically a mindless romp and an excuse for action and gore galore.  Those who love the games, like me, will probably appreciate it more, because the film strives for the same low-level base entertainment as them, and more or less succeeds.  I would have had more fun with a controller in my hands and a personal stake in the outcome, but, there it is.

The roles are thankless for the actors…Milla Jovovich basically runs the gamut looking pretty and scared, but gets to kick a little butt from time to time.  Michelle Rodriguez’ performance is borderline parody.  She spends the movie glowering through her eyelids and spouting tough talk through gritted teeth.  I guess there’s not much you can do with a script that only calls for you to mow down dead things.

The zombies are cool…a bit of a throwback to the great George Romero pictures, but perhaps a little more formidable in speed and strength.  They may be dead, but they ain’t going down easy.

Overall, the results are a mixed bag.  It’s a film that replaces true horror and atmosphere with cheap thrills and tries so hard to be fun that it ventures into spoof.  The characters are flat and exist only to kill or be killed.  In short, it’s a movie that plays like a video game…imagine that, huh?

Video ***1/2

This is a strong anamorphic offering from Columbia Tri Star…all the quality you’ve come to expect from them.  The film is a flashy, colorful delight with extreme lighting schemes, all of which make the maximum demands of a digital disc, and save for one or two softer moments in the darkest scenes, this DVD is up to the challenge.  Detail is always good, and the lighting effects create intense contrast levels from time to time, which render with no bleeding or distortion.  High marks.

Audio ****

The 5.1 audio fares even better.  This is a loud, explosive soundtrack from start to finish…you don’t even get through the opening credits without a sonic assault coming from every corner of the room!  The gunfire, machinery, and industrial music all give the track punch and range, as well as plenty of bottom end for the .1 channel.  You constantly hear noises in every direction, which adds to the spooky effectiveness.  Reference quality from top to bottom!

Features ****

This Deluxe Edition from Columbia Tri Star expands on their earlier release, starting with a group commentary by director Paul W. S. Anderson, DP David Johnson and actresses Jovovich and Rodriguez.  It’s a fun listen; it’s clear they all had a good time making the picture.  A new second commentary addresses the film's many special effects.

There are also ELEVEN  featurettes including a making-of documentary and ones on zombie make-up, the score, set design and costumes, production notes, a music video for “My Plague” by Slipknot, filmographies, and trailers.

Summary:

Resident Evil is aimed mainly at the games’ fans, who aren’t likely to be concerned by the absurdity and flimsiness of the plot lines and will get more into the fun but empty violence and action.  It may not be anyone’s idea of a great movie, but this Deluxe Edition makes for a great disc…if you’re looking for a little mindless diversion, you could do far worse.

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