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Resident Evil: Afterlife

Super-action is 3-Dimensionalized to ridiculous lengths in this enjoyable fourth entry in the Resident Evil franchise. Milla Jovovich has made a career out of amped-up actioners, and with this state-of-the-art sequel, there’s more Milla for your buck than ever: multiple Millas, slo-mo Milla, YouTube-esque confessional Milla -- it’s all here in Afterlife. Taking the wildest parts of the series and amping them up to absurd levels does this entry good. The film starts out with a bravura opening sequence, then slams it into fifth gear as it reenacts Matrix moments while taking them five steps further down the silly road. The flick is presented in a slick but janky enough manner that doesn’t scream revolutionary so much as it does just guilty action-movie fun. This is popcorn cinema for callus-thumbed gamers and lovers of no rules cinema, a subgenre where plot and rationale are furiously kept apart by explosions. Plus, the movie’s got some of the biggest zombie hoards ever committed to film -- that’s got to amount to something, right? Picking up where the last film left off, Afterlife introduces the audience to a planet Earth that’s been ravaged by a zombie apocalypse, brought on by the T-virus, an engineered chemical-weapons toxin developed by the Umbrella Corporation. Alice (Jovovich), a former agent of the global mega-company, has been scouring the globe, looking to pay back those responsible while searching for signs of humankind’s survival. The film begins with a raid on Umbrella’s underground base in Hong Kong, where a super-powered Alice (due to experiments by her former bosses) and a slew of her clones (as promised at the end of Part 3) bust through defenses and take down the structure. Along the way, Alice loses her powers in one of those “Uhh, okay!” kind of explanations -- and before anyone knows it, she’s off to L.A., where a small group of humans are holed up in a former penitentiary surrounded by an army of the undead, each anxiously awaiting a rescue by a ship off the coast that promises a virus-free life. From there, the film becomes a siege-type movie, with the humans desperately trying to escape the building and make it to salvation on the oil tanker. Add in a giant sack-head dude sporting a monster axe-hammer (a direct nod to the games, but otherwise not explained in the least), tentacle-mouthed mutants, and of course, the “evil of men” twist that comes naturally with zombie films -- plus a literal armory of weapons -- and you have a recipe for crazy cinema. Directed by the franchise’s original helmer (and husband to Milla), Paul W.S. Anderson, the pic is one of his classiest production-wise. While the blatant CG stunt show is giddily ludicrous, the often-maligned genre director actually shows a deft hand at balancing outrageous action with a legitimate prowess behind the camera. Filming with the same shooting techniques as Avatar, Anderson keenly bucks the trend of shaky-cam and goes for long, controlled takes -- often exhibiting exceptional use of depth. Incredibly so, Resident Evil: Afterlife features one of the finest uses of the technology in a live-action film. Not bad for a guy who’s been foolishly labeled by some as the “worst director of all time.” Going into it, one might want to keep in mind that Afterlife adopts the episodic nature of its predecessors, so expect a tease at the end for the inevitable sequel. Because of that, Afterlife could use a more amped-up finale, but then again, maybe Milla diving off a building (a la Die Hard) with a sea of zombies pouring over the ledge after her (a la 300) is good enough to satisfy the old memory banks, even if the scene doesn’t quite close the film out. Indeed, the flick’s pastiche of influences is all over the place, but when it’s pulled off in such an unpretentious way, it’s hard to fault it. For now, this fourth entry lives up to the promise of the series so far. Gamers might have their own preferences, as will fans of the movies, but for pure bang for the buck, adding in its technological prowess, Resident Evil: Afterlife proves there’s still life in this undead series. It might be a little overly goofball, but that’s how it goes in super-action-land.