Resident Evil: Afterlife

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I remember having a lot of unanswered questions at the end of “Resident Evil: Extinction.” What did I just watch? Why did I watch it? Is it too late to change to a career that will not require me to watch things like this? None of those questions are answered in part 4 of the franchise, “Resident Evil: Afterlife,” but at least you get to hear a bad guy say, “Tell security to flood the main entrance with nerve gas.”

It’s been a few years since the events of the last film (whatever those might have been; re-reading my review did little to jog my memory), and Alice (Milla Jovovich) is still seeking revenge against the Umbrella Corporation, whose dangerous experimentation with viral weaponry turned most of the Earth’s population into flesh-eating zombies. Alice acquired super powers at some point, but an injection early in this film makes her an ordinary human again. Then she walks away from a plane crash that otherwise left nothing but smoldering wreckage. You know, like ordinary humans do.

Having sent her fellow survivors to a supposed safe zone in Alaska, Alice the warrior now endeavors to catch up with them. She manages to find Claire (Ali Larter) but no one else, and Claire has amnesia. Somehow they both wind up in what used to be a prison, holed up with a small band of other survivors hiding from the zombie horde outside the prison gates. Their compatriots include a professional athlete named Luther (Boris Kodjoe), a smug Hollywood producer named Bennett (Kim Coates), and an alleged killer named Chris (Wentworth Miller).

I’ll tell you one thing, this is not exactly a cavalcade of stellar acting. Everyone speaks in throaty whispers, with even casual lines given a menacing, tough-guy spin. This sounds particularly absurd when it’s Milla Jovovich and Ali Larter conversing, as these are two of the least expressive actresses currently working. They are rivaled by Shawn Roberts, who plays supervillain Albert Wesker (a role previously played by Jason O’Mara) as if he were a robot. (Spoiler alert: He is not a robot.)

But Paul W.S. Anderson, writer of all four films and director of the first one, is back in the driver’s seat here, and he pulls off some nifty visual effects. Shooting in 3D, he makes use of the gimmick without being too gimmicky, and he avoids letting the action scenes become chaotic or confusing. In fact, he tends to go the opposite way, showing everything in slow-motion so we won’t miss anything. What we’re seeing may be absurd half the time, but at least we can see it.

Oh, it’s silly stuff, sure. Chris and Claire turn out to have an extraordinarily coincidental connection to one another. A Goliath-size zombie with a burlap sack over his head shows up to cause trouble, with no explanation ever given for what he is or why he’s so powerful. (I assume he’s from one of the “Resident Evil” video games.) The subplot about Chris’ supposedly murderous tendencies adds nothing and goes nowhere. Like pretty much all of Anderson’s films (“Mortal Kombat,” “Event Horizon,” “Death Race”), this one is half-baked. The half that’s baked isn’t too bad, though.

C+ (1 hr., 37 min.; R, a lot of bloody violence, some harsh profanity.)

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