RESIDENT EVIL VENDETTA
Directed by Takanori Tsujimoto
If you like to watch other people play video games more than you like playing them yourself, then this could be the film for you. A lot of readers won’t know there’s more than 6 Resident Evil films. While we’ve only got that many of the American ones, this week the Japanese computer generated series, known there as Biohazard, is reaching entry number 4 (including the original short). And unlike their live action western counterparts, they stick to the source material a lot.
For instance, rather than a creating an original character like Alice, Vendetta focuses on series regulars. Thus we have military man Chris (Dorman), moody ex-cop Leon (Mercer), and tactician Rebecca (Cahill) in the mix, with very little catch up for the uninitiated. To any newbies that may be reading, all you need to know is they’ve been part of the world since the 90s, and none of them are strangers to either the infected or guns. This is fortunate, as an arms dealer named Arias (DeMita), hellbent on vengeance over the death of his wife, is about create an upgraded version of the virus. Cue an even bigger and nastier horde than before, now with unique targeting abilities: the perfect bio weapon. Needless to say they’ll need a lot of gunpowder and shells to take them out. Luckily Rebecca, now working as a scientist, has devised an antidote. But unluckily, Arias has his sights on her.
As per the trajectory of the games, Vendetta begins at a scary looking mansion that has more than a passing resemblance to the original Spencer one. There’s some genuine suspense as Chris, and a band of red shirts in military gear, creep through its darkened corridors. The whole sequence is edge of the seat stuff, resulting in some effective moments of animated terror. Unfortunately, it sees the film peak early, with other set-pieces failing to meet the same genuine tension. While the later points keep one foot in the horror genre the other is firmly in the balls to the wall action one (with shockingly high collateral damage). While some of these sequences are visually impressive, with director Tsujimoto obviously knowing how to exploit the CGI medium, I found them a lot less engaging. Sure, they can be good fun – including the goofiest one on one gunfight I’ve ever seen – but they soon get repetitive and a bit too silly. That being said, I expect lots of viewers will love the over the top nature. I suspect it’s tied to which of the games they like best (for the record, I didn’t like number four but appreciate I’m massively in the minority).
The visuals are great for the bloated explosions and chases, allowing greater freedom than any camera ever could. However, they are a lot less impressive when it comes to the film’s surprisingly frequent dramatic sequences. The voice acting is fine, and easily up to the standards of the game – particularly for DeMita, who steals every scene. But the animation doesn’t look up to scratch during the scenes where the characters emote, giving an awkward uncanny valley feel. Problems like this is amplified by just how moody Leon and Chris are for the large part, with much of the first two acts seeing them fight as many demons as zombies. During these bits it’s a very by the numbers script, with the lines having as much piping as the Racoon City sewers. While clumsy, exposition-heavy dialogue is still acceptable for games, when the audience are directly involved in the action, when they’re passively watching a movie it’s a lot more jarring. It’s also unfortunate that Rebecca is out of action for so much of it. Even if her scenes with Arias offer some refreshing black comedy, it’s disappointing to see the story reduce her to a damsel in distress. Leon also seems to vanish off for long periods, before showing up on his motorcycle and going again, which is an odd decision considering he’s the narrator. I could carry on some more about it violating the classic 3 act structure etc. and the hero’s journey. But then it’s a bloody Resident Evil movie.
Which is really the main decider of whether people will like it or not. Usually I’m a big fan of star ratings, and will defend them to other critics who think they’re unhelpful. But this is the sort of film they definitely don’t add anything too. If you’re a fan of the universe, and quite like the idea of essentially watching a 100 minute cut scene, then this is probably a fine investment of your time. But if you hate the franchise then this definitely isn’t going to convert you. Although that being said, I doubt many of you will have read this far.