Review: Resident Evil: Extinction

Dwindling survivors of a deadly virus fight zombies in a satisfying end to the Resident Evil trilogy.

The third installment of the Resident Evil trilogy finds Alice, the genetically modified subject of evil experiments by the Umbrella Corporation, battling devil dogs, zombies, and mad scientists in a post-apocalyptic Wild West. Written by series guru Paul W.S. Anderson and directed by action journeyman Russell Mulcahy, Resident Evil: Extinction is a grimly efficient horror thriller that delivers exactly what the other two entries did: monsters, gore, and a heavily armed Milla Jovovich in boots and garters.

Jovovich was about the only reason to watch Resident Evil (2001) and Resident Evil: Apocalypse (2004). With her lithe beauty and limited but enthusiastic action moves, she turned the superheroine Alice into a videogamer’s dream date. Apocalypse shunted Alice off-screen for much of the movie; Extinction puts the focus back squarely on her character, opening on her naked in a shower. Donning her trademark red minidress, she embarks on what amounts to a trial version of the videogame, a demo that like most ends abruptly and badly.

The T-Virus developed by the Umbrella Corporation has spread from company labs in Raccoon City to the entire planet, turning much of the Earth into a desert inhabited by flesh-eating dogs and zombies. While Umbrella scientist Dr. Isaacs (Iain Glen) searches for an anti-virus, human survivors led by Claire Redfield (Ali Larter) form a convoy in an attempt to elude the zombies until a cure is found.

Alice joins the convoy near Salt Lake City, reuniting with Carlos (Oded Fehr), her love interest in the previous film. Also returning from Apocalypse is L.J. (Mike Epps), offering what passes for comic relief. Pop singer Ashanti shows up briefly as a nurse; like the rest of the cast, her prime function is to feed the zombies, undead dogs and rabid crows who pop up like clockwork.

Long stretches of the film play like a watered-down Mad Max, not a bad model given the primarily desert locations. Visual highlights include a strikingly designed Las Vegas covered in sand and an overhead view of zombie hordes converging on an abandoned radio installation. Alice’s powers, which now include the ability to form force fields and to fling boulders around, are also fun to watch.

The dogs figure in one of the film’s best sequences, a series of complicated, interrelated stunts that build to a gratifying payoff. The zombies, on the other hand, are ridiculously easy to kill, forcing the filmmakers to resort to the kind of creative brutality that merits an R rating. The impalements, beheadings, incinerations, blood feasts, and wholesale obliterations that punctuate the movie ultimately mean as little as scores achieved on computers and consoles.

If Resident Evil: Extinction lacks the pacing, drive, and narrative ingenuity of a George Romero movie, it also avoids the intellectual pretensions that can infect the zombie genre. And it offers Jovovich, whose features take on an inhumanly lustrous, bronzed glow in her frequent close-ups. While the film is being promoted as the last in the series, the closing shot offers the possibility of an infinite number of sequels.

Cast: Milla Jovovich, Oded Fehr, Ali Larter, Iain Glen, Ashanti, Christopher Egan, Spencer Locke, Matthew Marsden, Linden Ashby, Jason O’Mara, Mike Epps.

Credits: Directed by Russell Mulcahy. Screenplay: Paul W.S. Anderson. Based on the CAPCOM videogame, “Resident Evil.” Produced by Bernd Eichinger, Samuel Hadida, Robert Kulzer, Jeremy Bolt, Paul W.S. Anderson. Executive producers: Martin Moszkowicz, Victoria Hadida, Kelly Van Horn. Director of photography: David Johnson. Production designer: Eugenio Caballero. Edited by Niven Howie. Music: Charlie Clouser. Art director: Marco Niro. Costume designer: Joseph Porro. Sound: Luciano Larobina. Visual effects supervisors: Dennis Berardi, Evan Jacobs. Creature designer/supervisor: Patrick Tatopoulos. Stunt coordinator: Rick Forsayeth. A Screen Gems, Davis Films and Constantin Film presentation of a Constantin Film, Davis Films, and Impact Films production.

Screen Gems/Color/2.35/Dolby Digital, DTS & SDDS/93 Mins./Rated R

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