The Critic’s Corner
February 13-19, 2017
By David Laprad
The last time I went to the movies, I had choice between seeing Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey do the mambo in the 30th anniversary version of “Dirty Dancing” or Milla Jovovich ventilating zombie skulls with her shotgun in “Resident Evil: The Final Chapter.”
I chose the lesser of two evils: the zombies.
This is where I offer my confession - where I lay my insides out for all to see, like Milla’s Alice does with great efficiency when she’s disposing of enemies with her hunting knife: I kind of like these movies.
I know, I know. This goes against all sound judgment. “The Final Chapter” is the sixth “Resident Evil” film, and unless I’m forgetting something, the previous movies are messier than a worm-riddled corpse. The storylines are incoherent, the acting is laughable and the directing has earned Paul W. S. Anderson a reputation as one of the worst filmmakers working today.
Anderson has taken a no-holds-barred approach to making these movies, and every ounce of the bombastic creative energy and sheer disregard for critics he poured into them is evident on the screen.
From wall-to-wall action to eye-tickling imagery formed in the burning recesses of a fevered mind, the “Resident Evil” movies have consistently and unapologetically offered at least a couple of hours of popcorn-munching fun.
As I pick kernels from my teeth, I’m thinking back on of some of my favorite moments from “The Final Chapter.” There’s the image of two tanks leading an army of zombies to Washington, D.C. using a living person tied to the back of each vehicle as bait. I also liked the shot of Alice posing on top of one of the tanks as fire spews out of every crack after a bomb detonated inside of it. Then there’s the sequence in which waves of gasoline pour off a dilapidated cylindrical high-rise like a waterfall and flames slowly make their way down the stream and across a sea of undead.
That shot alone gave me my money’s worth. Say what you will about Anderson’s directing abilities, he knows the value of eye candy and can deliver it in spades.
Unfortunately, Anderson has forgotten how to direct a decent action scene. I have often complained in this column about shaky camerawork and hyperactive editing. “The Final Chapter” takes both to new extremes.
I wouldn’t be surprised to learn the cameraman had shot the movie while jumping up and down on a pogo stick. Nor would I be shocked to find out the editor then threw the footage it into a Cuisinart and randomly stitched the tiny pieces together.
Entire action scenes seem to be assembled from shots that last a half second or less. Worse, there’s no visual flow, making it hard to tell what’s going on.
I’ll never understand why there are directors who make this kind of movie. Do they consider it the height of their craft? Are audiences demanding it? Does you really need to use three half-second shots to show someone slicking back their hair?
Despite my frustration with the action scenes, I was surprised to find myself wrapped up in the story. Somehow, after five movies of clunky writing, the creators of “The Final Chapter” not only told an interesting and coherent story, they also tied many of the jumbled bits from previous films together in a way that makes sense.
Given the reputation the “Resident Evil” movies have for being confusing, I was pleased to see them end in a mostly satisfying way. Alice doesn’t get the send off she deserves, but that’s a small complaint.
If you’ve never seen a “Resident Evil” movie but are dragged to this one, don’t worry about not being up to speed on the plot: the characters constantly explain what happened in the previous movies to each other, as though they’re afraid the other one forgot something important. It gets silly at times, kind of like telling your lunch date what the two of you just ate:
You: You ordered the house salad with Ranch dressing as a starter.
Lunch date: You didn’t order an appetizer because you didn’t want to ruin your meal.
You: Then you ordered a steak - medium rare!
And so on. Basically, the series follows Alice as she fights the evil Umbrella Corporation after it unleashes a virus that turns nearly the entire human race into flesh-eating zombies.
So that’s that. I won’t be seeing another “Resident Evil” movie. But that’s OK. All good things, including guilty pleasures, must come to an end.
I appreciate you indulging me this week and promise to return next week with a review of a film you’re more likely to see.
Two-and-a-half stars out of four. Rated PG-13 for sequences of violence.
David Laprad is the assistant editor of the Hamilton County Herald and an award-winning columnist and photographer. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.