Resident Evil: Apocalypse

Year: 2004
Studio: Sony
Director: Alexander Witt
Producer: Paul W S Anderson
Writer: Milla Jovovich, Jared Harris, Mike Epps

The true magic of cinema isn't love stories, special effects or transporting the audience to another world for a few hours.

It's the power it has to bring so much to people of such disparate tastes. The explosive documentaries we've seen so far in 2004 have shifted the worldviews of millions all over the world — it's hard to imagine a TV show or newspaper doing the same.

High quality drama or arthouse films usually draw more discerning moviegoers who snort in disdain for the latest American effects-driven blockbuster, and you usually wouldn't find a gaggle of SMS-obsessed teens lined up for The Hours or Cold Mountain.

But the true movie fan is just as entertained and informed watching a documentary as an action movie. Just because a lot more films in the action genre are badly made (usually overblown and underscripted), doesn't mean it's not a worthy one.

Because here's the thing; Resident Evil: Apocalypse is packed to the edges of the frame with hot chicks in tight tops and miniskirts toting huge guns, a hulking monster, a plague of the undead, brutal fight scenes, an evil corporation and an elite squad of hunky commandoes. What the hell else were the movies invented for?

As purely escapist cinema, it stands head and shoulders over most of its contemporaries for its whiplash action, over-the-top stunts, louder-than-natural effects and cool characters.

No, it's not good just because it's got zombies and Milla Jovovich wears a skimpy outfit. The original Resident Evil had both those elements and while Milla has lost none of her Natassja Kinksi-like style and 'try it and I'll kick your arse' eyes, the original film was more like another Alien ripoff than a zombie film. Where the undead crawling around The Hive did feature in the story, they could have been guard dogs, enemy soldiers or used car salesmen for all the zombie horror they invoked.

This time, we're closer to Dawn of the Dead territory, where there's nowhere to hide because of the hissing undead wandering Raccoon City.

And for at least the first half, it's an effective horror story, with plenty of moments of armrest-grabbing fear, amped up thanks to the explosive sound effects (every gunshot is a cannonblast and you can feel the smack of metal through flesh with every direct hit on a shuffling corpse).

We left Alice (Jovovich) at the end of the first film after escaping the Umbrella Corporation lab and finding Raccoon City in tatters, where she realises the T virus has escaped The Hive.

We start by going back a step, showing us the opening of The Hive that releases the undead into the city and starts the beginning of the end. So when Alice stumbles outside, she's hardly got time for a deep breath before she has to suit up in a barely-there mesh dress and get her hands on some heavy artillery.

Other groups are active within the perimeter that's been erected around the outskirts of the whole city as well; two cops and a reporter, the stereotypical jive-talking black sidekick for comic relief, and a squad of STARS (Special Tactics and Rescue Services) operatives.

They soon team up and, thanks to the ubiquitous surveillance camera network throughout around the city (so not so futuristic after all!), a high-ranking scientist from Umbrella makes covert contact; his daughter has been lost during her evacuation and if they can retrieve her safely, he'll get them out of Raccoon City before Umbrella Corp enacts the final solution to cover up their activities.

But there's a spanner in the works; Umbrella see the pandemonium as the chance to release and test their secret weapons; Project Nemesis — a seven foot tall, otherworldly creature with a huge mouth full of sharp teeth and a middy gun. Dodging the massing zombies and the one-creature army, the gang has their work cut out for them by morning.

Resident Evil: Apocalypse isn't perfect; the behaviour and agility of the Nemesis assassin is vastly different to its older brothers (whom the heroes meet in a church early on) and the difference is never explained.

And the whole thing should have ended five minutes before it does; trying to extend the story past its natural climax just makes it feel disjointed.

But it's cool the way we've been hoping an action movie will be for a long time. Maybe it works because they got rid of original director Paul W S Anderson in favour of unknown Alexander Witt after he missed the point in the first film (although the script is still credited to him).

But whatever the reason, Resident Evil: Apocalypse is the best action/horror/adventure movie in ages, effortlessly grasping everything that films with much higher profiles (such as the Matrix sequels) missed so conspicuously.

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