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Resident Evil

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There's something inherently redundant about action movies adapted from video games, in part because both seem to be moving steadily toward each other already. Over the past two decades, video games have grown more technologically advanced and cinematic in scope, while action movies have inherited video games' insistence on one-dimensional characters, endless carnage, and shoot-'em-up spectacle over plot and characterization. The thin line between the two media is particularly hazy in Mortal Kombat director Paul W.S. Anderson's Resident Evil, the feature-film adaptation of the popular video game which itself borrowed none too subtly from George Romero's Night Of The Living Dead trilogy. Romero himself was attached to the Resident Evil movie at one point, and it would have been interesting to see what he could do with the elements of timely social commentary the film introduces in its first 15 minutes, then proceeds to ignore. Building on her ass-kicking-pixie turn in The Fifth Element, Milla Jovovich stars as a diminutive but feisty employee of a sinister corporation that literally puts profits over human lives, and makes much of its money from experiments hidden even from its employees. Jovovich and her similarly tough compatriots learn about their company's exploits the hard way, after an escaped experimental virus turns corporate yuppies into drooling, brain-consuming ghouls. As the memory-impaired Jovovich attempts to recollect her past and identity from narratively convenient flashbacks while keeping herself and her coworkers alive, Anderson sets about co-opting every action-movie cliché of the past few decades. In addition to cribbing prodigiously from Romero and from the Alien series' terror-in-enclosed-places template, Anderson introduces a 2001-style anthropomorphic computer represented visually by a hologram of a prim English girl. Like much of Resident Evil, the effect is supposed to be sinister, but instead feels grating and derivative. Perhaps expecting a glimmer of originality from the latest video-game cash-in is asking a lot, but Resident Evil is too grim and humorless to even qualify as trashy fun. A lurching Frankenstein's monster of a thriller without a fresh thought in its empty head, the film manages the seemingly paradoxical but all-too-common feat of being simultaneously assaultive and nap-inducingly dull.