Paul W.S. Anderson sparked the Resident Evil film series with the video game-esque original film (that ironically bared little resemblance to its video games source). With Afterlife, the 4th installment, he returns as Writer/Director for this convoluted and ill-judged mess of a movie. Despite an evocative and pulpy stylized opening (complemented by thrumming music from tomandandy) Afterlife gets bogged down by excessive exposition and a dour tone. It’s a mess.
I’m a fan of Resident Evil (my favorite installment is the B-movie Zombie Western Extinction). I appreciate its style, pulp, “does what it says on the tin” attitude. Milla Jovovich is consistently perfect as Alice, giving every film 110%. With Afterlife, however, Anderson’s poor writing is highlighted by even poorer direction. Almost every scene and sequence inevitably fades to black, affirming my fears that the film was a disconnected chaotic mess. Anderson typically excels at palpable atmosphere and stylized action, meshing action, horror, and electric music expertly to create a fun “midnight movie” experience for viewers. Here, unfortunately, the successes are few and far between. Jovovich is as reliable as ever, but the stunt work feels half baked, given no favors by the action editing, cutting away from the brawls and firefights at the absolute worst moment, betraying weak choreography and craftsmanship. Claire (Ali Larter) is also a welcome friendly face, but by and large the supporting cast is lacking.
Poorly paced, poorly written, saved from the absolute doldrums by a slow motion action set piece set in a flooded shower room, Resident Evil: Afterlife is by far the weakest entry in the series. Even the main villain is weaker than ever before, thrown in sloppily in the beginning and end, making for an unsatisfying boss battle. Jovovich deserved better – here’s to hoping Retribution regains the strengths of the first three installments.