More speed-metal sleek than George A. Romero sluggish, Paul W.S. Anderson’s video game-based Resident Evil was a deliciously junky, over-the-top orgy of zombie madness and female fearlessness headlined by Milla Jovovich’s ax-wielding warrior-babe Alice. Though far from great, Anderson’s entertainingly inane film mixed grisly gore with red-hot eroticism—Milla’s slinky low-cut dress and black boots were integral to the monster-mashing mayhem—and a degree of big business paranoia centered around the insidious Umbrella corporation’s creation of the cadaver-reanimating T-virus in an underground facility called the Hive. Yet for all its pleasures—I’d refer to them as guilty, but why feel ashamed?—the film was only incidentally related to its bleak, chilling interactive source material, a faux pas remedied by Alexander Witt’s equally excessive, idiotic, and enjoyable follow-up Resident Evil: Apocalypse.
After quickly synopsizing the original’s events, Witt’s rambunctious sequel kicks into high gear as Alice, seemingly imbued with superhuman powers by Umbrella’s experiments, takes to the chaotic, zombie-filled streets of Raccoon City in an effort to thwart the undead menace. The city is under an Umbrella-mandated quarantine that’s trapped uninfected citizens with the rabid, swarming creatures, and though this setting exhibits none of its predecessor’s claustrophobic, cold-steel creepiness, Witt drenches his depravity in jet-black griminess that’s reminiscent of the games’ eerily decaying environments. Written by Anderson, the film’s splintered narrative focuses not only on Alice’s plight but also on the survival tactics of Oded Fehr’s S.T.A.R.S. soldier Olivera, Mike Epps’s comedic relief hustler L.J., and Sienna Guillory’s game-derived police officer Jill Valentine, whose assured ass-kicking and revealing outfit (tube top, mini-skirt, knee-high boots) marks her as a kindred spirit to the fishnet shirt-adorned Alice. When it comes to zombie-killing pandemonium, Anderson and Witt wisely recognize that two sizzling hot, partially dressed badasses are invariably better than one.
Apocalypse offers a staggering litany of lunatic moments, from Alice sprinting down the face of a skyscraper and engaging in a battle of the T-virus titans against the über-monster Nemesis to our heroes’ stupefying decision to walk through a graveyard during a zombie outbreak. Yet the rollicking film’s comically outrageous set pieces, familiar flesh-eating fiends (including the long-tongued Lickers) and disinterest in nuanced characters are hardly detriments, since this superficial broads-and-bullets extravaganza deliberately, and proudly, wears its stupidity on its bloodstained sleeve. Jovovich’s sultry intensity, the adrenalized techno-metal score, and plentiful allusions to the first adventure—in a subplot involving a crippled Umbrella scientist’s (Jared Harris) missing daughter, the little girl’s soft British accent subtly reveals her father’s culpability in the catastrophe—all help prop up the frighteningly emaciated story, and Witt’s go-for-broke action choreography exhibits a head-snapping muscularity. Much like its legion of cannibalistic corpses, the campy Resident Evil: Apocalypse may be brain dead, but it’s nonetheless also heartily, feverishly alive.