Resident Evil relies so heavily on startle scares that it induces eyeball rolling after 15 minutes. The film eventually feels like an unending continuum of such cheap trickery, strung together by a semi-coherent plot that rarely bothers to explain the path from point A to point B. Messy and at times incomprehensible, the film nonetheless has some cool moments that preserve the bleak, amoral atmosphere of the slaughterhouse video game that inspired it. Not to mention a bunch of unintentional hilarity, including the throwback (but apparently straight-faced) inclusion of George Romero-style zombies in a modern action-horror flick. The less laughable part of the plot involves a HAL 9000-like computer called the Red Queen, which attempts to contain the outbreak by systematically wiping out the remaining human population in the underground lab. The cold efficiency of the mainframe, particularly its sweeping laser that can dice human flesh, can be gruesome and chilling. Beyond this and the nominally plausible setup, which mostly obeys its own rules, the film has little to offer but egregious dialogue, derivative plot points, and B-movie acting. Milla Jovovich and Michelle Rodriguez are the only cast members of note -- Jovovich, improbably dressed in a thigh-revealing miniskirt, presents an ass-kicking variation on her usual savant acting style, and Rodriguez's stare is so piercing that her zombie conversion seems underway from the start. The track record of video game movies has been dismal, and Resident Evil mostly follows suit. But at least it's better than Lara Croft: Tomb Raider and director Paul Anderson's other adaptation attempt, Mortal Kombat.
by Derek Armstrong review