Tuesday, January 31, 2017


(US/Germany - 2017)

Written and directed by Paul W.S. Anderson. Cast: Milla Jovovich, Ali Larter, Iain Glen, Shawn Roberts, Ruby Rose, Eoin Macken, Fraser James, William Levy, Rola, Lee Goon Ji, Ever Anderson, Mark Simpson. (R, 106 mins)

The Paul W.S. Anderson-shepherded RESIDENT EVIL franchise has been a mostly reliable source of empty calorie junk food over the last 15 years, with the only real stumble being the second film in the series, 2004's RESIDENT EVIL: APOCALYPSE. Directed not by Anderson (who was busy with the execrable ALIEN VS. PREDATOR) but by veteran second-unit guy Alexander Witt--who hasn't directed a film since--APOCALYPSE remains the nadir of a series that sprang back to life when Anderson returned to the director's chair for the fourth entry, 2010's 3D RESIDENT EVIL: AFTERLIFE (HIGHLANDER director Russell Mulcahy helmed 2007's so-so RESIDENT EVIL: EXTINCTION). Unfortunately, with RESIDENT EVIL: THE FINAL CHAPTER, the purported conclusion to the series (not likely), things take a turn toward the APOCALYPSE end of things. Fatigue was starting to set in with the most recent entry, 2012's RESIDENT EVIL: RETRIBUTION, but with THE FINAL CHAPTER, everyone involved, starting with star Milla Jovovich, just seems to be over it. The worst decision Anderson makes here--and perhaps he did so under the false assumption that it would liven up a stale formula--is to utilize the services of editor Doobie White. White's credits include CRANK 2: HIGH VOLTAGE, RECLAIM, and MOMENTUM, action films that rely on lighting-fast cutting so that no shot seems to last longer than a second. It's RESIDENT EVIL done quick-cut/shaky-cam style, rendering most of the action sequences an unwatchable, headache-inducing blur. Not only does that aesthetic not gel with Anderson's usual style, but it's nearly a decade past its sell-by date. Anderson takes a lot of shit from fanboy types, but he's always been a stylist first and foremost, and his films do have a distinctive look and feel to them, all the way back to his 1994 debut SHOPPING. Why he would decide, nearly a quarter century into his filmmaking career, to start ripping off the worst tendencies of Michael Bay and the Neveldine/Taylor CRANK guys is a mystery. To say that THE FINAL CHAPTER is marginally better than APOCALYPSE is damning with faint praise, but it's still an incoherent, hideous mess to look at and tantamount to a digital migraine.

Quickly wrapping up the cliffhanger ending of RETRIBUTION with a de facto "Previously on..." recap, THE FINAL CHAPTER begins with Jovovich's Alice wandering the ruins of Washington D.C., and encountering the hologram of the Red Queen (Ever Anderson, Jovovich's Mini-Me daughter with husband Anderson). The Red Queen directs Alice to venture back to the wasteland that is Raccoon City to break into The Hive, the Umbrella Corporation's underground compound, where there's an airborne antivirus to cure the pandemic T-Virus that turned the whole world into zombies with only 4000 humans remaining. The Red Queen was created in Alice's image, her father a humanitarian scientist with the Umbrella Corporation who was murdered by his business partner Dr. Isaacs (Iain Glen, returning from APOCALYPSE and EXTINCTION) and Umbrella flunky Wesker (Shawn Roberts, returning from AFTERLIFE and RETRIBUTION and continuing his "I'm almost Hugo Weaving from THE MATRIX" act) when he foolishly decided to put people before profits. Alice gets away from Isaacs, now a ranting prophet wanting to bring about the end of the world, and makes her way to Raccoon City where she encounters the obligatory ragtag band of survivors, including Claire Redfield (Ali Larter, returning from EXTINCTION and AFTERLIFE) and must make their way into The Hive with 12 hours left to save what's left of humanity and start over. They've got Isaacs in a tank leading a zombie horde straight to them as well as Wesker pacing around his underground lair arguing with the Red Queen hologram, who has promised to tell amnesiac Alice the truth about herself.

That truth is obvious since Anderson reveals his cards too early, enabling any viewer with the capacity to fog a mirror to figure out the secret long before Alice does. Gathering cast members from past entries gives THE FINAL CHAPTER that comfort food, high-school reunion, victory lap feel that RETRIBUTION had, but none of the supporting cast are put to good use--Roberts' Wesker and Larter's Claire have nothing to do--except for Glen, who seems to having a good time hamming it up as the evil Isaacs. As the ho-hum story moves from one loud jump-scare, verbose exposition drop, and eye-glazingly incomprehensible set piece to another, you can practically feel the burnout along with Jovovich after six of these. The accelerated pace of the action scenes comes off not so much as a jolt of inspiration on the part of Anderson but rather, an eagerness to just get through this as quickly as possible. Anderson doesn't even take advantage of the easy political subtext of Isaacs and his transformation from scheming CEO to end-of-days Bible thumper. Once upon a time, George Romero was attached to direct a RESIDENT EVIL adaptation prior to Anderson's involvement all those years ago--can you imagine what he could've brought to this in his prime? Even middling installments like EXTINCTION and RETRIBUTION have solid zombie action and some striking dystopian imagery. Here, you can't see any of that because Anderson has instructed White to keep it cut at such a frenetic pace that your eyes can't even process what you're seeing (watch that turbine scene and imagine how much more effective it would've been if sensibly edited). It'll probably be a big enough hit in Asia, where it opened huge in December 2016, a month before it was released in the rest of the world (that also explains the very brief presence--at least in the US version--of South Korean TV star/singer/model Lee Goon Ji) that it'll likely be rebooted with or without Jovovich and Anderson, but it'll be awfully difficult to get excited about it.

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