"Resident Evil: Apocalypse," or as the cool kids say, "RE2," plays so much like a videogame you will be reaching for a joystick. Unfortunately, there is no interactive element available other than yelling at the screen so you're left with enjoying the few glimmers of undead fun, one or two slick action set pieces and the ever-watchable Milla Jovovich.
The seductive, glassy-eyed star of the first "Resident Evil" returns as Alice, now genetically engineered to be faster, stronger and able to leap over rampaging zombies in a single bound. She's a bionic woman for the PlayStation generation.
In "RE2," the tranquillity of Raccoon City -- Toronto with a great big wall around it -- is disrupted when the undeadly T-Virus is unleashed. Those infected die within a few hours, but because of the mutation caused by the virus rise again swiftly as the flesh-hungry undead, slow-moving, poorly coordinated zombies who stagger about like frat boys on a 1 a.m. beer run.
The pseudo-governmental Umbrella Corp. begins evacuation but shuts things down once the infection reaches the gates, trapping a few unlucky souls with the zombies, a new breed of faster-moving critters called Lickers and Umbrella's secret weapon, a Frankenstein-like creation known as Nemesis.
Alice awakens from a deep pharmaceutical slumber to discover that she's been experimented upon by Umbrella resulting in her enhanced fighting prowess and ability to dispense plotty exposition to characters and audience members who weren't present for the first go-round in which she and an elite paramilitary squad supposedly vanquished the marauding undead. Escaping from the lab and inconveniently clad in only a towel, she quickly finds herself some scanty clothes and munitions and hooks up with the handful of remaining survivors.
The group, comprised of a demoted S.T.A.R.S. (Special Tactics and Rescue Services) member, the tube-topped tough-grrrl Jill Valentine (Sienna Guillory), team leader Carlos Olivera (Oded Fehr), the street-smart, wisecracking L.J. (Mike Epps as the de rigueur comic relief) and an Emmy-hunting TV journalist (Sandrine Holt), is offered a deal by a scientist (Jared Harris): find his young daughter and he will tell them how to escape.
Alexander Witt, the second unit director of films such as "The Italian Job," "Daredevil" and "Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl," takes over from "Resident Evil's" Paul W.S. Anderson, who wrote the screenplay for "RE2" but was busy directing "Alien vs. Predator." Witt injects the film with plenty of razzle-dazzle on the visual side, but the pace deadens whenever the zombies are offscreen or the characters open their mouths long enough to do anything more than grunt.
'Resident Evil: Apocalypse'
MPAA rating: R for nonstop violence, language and some nudity.
Times guidelines: The usual flesh munching with some neck snapping, finger breaking and a maggot-infested skull tossed in for flavor.
Jill Valentine...Sienna Guillory
Carlos Olivera...Oded Fehr
Major Cain...Thomas Kretschmann
Dr. Ashford...Jared Harris
Angie Ashford...Sophie Vavasseur
A Constantin Film (UK) Limited / Davis Films / Impact (Canada) Inc. production, released by Screen Gems. Director Alexander Witt. Producers Jeremy Bolt, Paul W.S. Anderson, Don Carmody. Executive producer Bernd Eichinger, Samuel Hadida, Robert Kulzer, Victor Hadida. Screenplay by Paul W.S. Anderson, based on Capcom's videogame Resident Evil. Cinematographer Christian Sebaldt, Derek Rogers. Editor Eddie Hamilton. Costume designer Mary McLeod. Music Jeff Danna. Production designer Paul Denham Austerberry. Art director Nigel Churcher. Running time: 1 hour, 33 minutes.
In general release.
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By the Numbers
Back in the game Milla Jovovich returns to battle biohazard-induced zombies in ÒResident Evil: Apocalypse,Ó which blasts into theaters today and is expected to dominate the weekend box office. Movies that are adapted from video games, however, can be expensive to make and have a spotty commercial record. Here are 10 of the highest-grossing movies based on video games.*
Film Domestic gross (Year) (in millions) ÒLara Croft: Tomb RaiderÓ (Õ01) $131.2 ÒMortal KombatÓ (Õ95) $70.5 ÒLara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of LifeÓ (Õ03) $65.7 ÒResident EvilÓ (Õ02) $39.7 ÒMortal Kombat: AnnihilationÓ (Õ97) $35.5 ÒStreetfighterÓ (Õ94) $33.4 ÒFinal Fantasy: The Spirits WithinÓ (Õ01) $32.1 ÒSuper Mario Bros.Ó (Õ93) $20.9 ÒThe WizardÓ (Õ89) $14.3 ÒWing CommanderÓ (Õ99) $11.6
* Excludes titles such as ÒPokemonÓ that did not originate as games.
Sources: Titles from Boxofficemojo.com; grosses from Nielsen EDI