- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 9, 2004

What did we ever do to the undead? It seems that every other week, another undead feature lurches our way, inviting us to watch stiff-legged zombies chomping human flesh until the heroes deposit some bullets in their skulls.

“Resident Evil: Apocalypse” may be the sequel to the surprise 2002 hit spawned from a popular video game, but it’s more of the gross-out same.

Zombies rush in. The few human survivors aim for their temples and fire away.

Can’t we all just get along?

Milla Jovovich returns as Alice, one of two survivors from the first film, who discovers the undead virus she previously fought has infested the fictional Raccoon City.

She may look the same as she did in the first film, but her former employer, the Umbrella Corp., has tinkered with her DNA to grant her superhuman powers.

She’ll need all that strength and guile once she teams up with a ragtag bunch of fellow survivors — and don’t all these undead films feature similar-looking bands of human refugees? — to fight off the undead and the latest tricks up Umbrella’s corporate sleeve.

This sci-fi feature isn’t all shuffling zombies and bloody corpses. At its core is an indictment of Umbrella, a fictional entity that makes Halliburton look like Greenpeace by comparison.

Umbrella’s biohazard negligence unleashed the reanimating virus in the first film, and now we learn that the company is using the latest undead outbreak to test other genetic weapons.

Nemesis, a hulking monster whose special effects look straight out of classic “Star Trek,” is the corporation’s latest model.

“RE2,” as the film’s marketing department likes to call it, delivers the kind of squint-eyed performances and gun-slinging pronouncements typical of the genre. Comic relief, and boy, do we need some, comes via Mike Epps as a foul-mouthed survivor who’s neither warrior nor victim.

Video-game geeks who go ga-ga over Miss Jovovich’s sultry form get a second female lead to gush over in online chats. Sienna Guillory plays Valentine, a former Umbrella officer wearing a selection from the Lara Croft spring collection.

Between Miss Jovovich and Miss Guillory, who needs a male action hero?

The casting director for “RE2” probably dispensed with line readings and asked those assembled, “Can you point a gun, look really tough and fit into a size-zero dress?”

The zombies themselves hardly give us the creeps, so director Alexander Witt engages an array of slow-motion sequences and swift edits to frighten us. All the manipulated segments reveal is that the producers ran out of money when it came to zombie greasepaint kits.

The final moments clearly show that the filmmakers have a “Resident Evil” trilogy in mind, though there’s precious little about the first two features that demands a third act.

“RE2” stands far superior to “House of the Dead,” last year’s inept zombie-video-game translation, and the action never flags long enough for us to check our watches.

And as long as we’re stuck in a theater watching humans duke it out with the undead, why not put Miss Jovovich front and center?

Maybe by the time “Resident Evil 3” comes our way, all the undead will be put back to sleep, but for good this time.

**

WHAT: “Resident Evil: Apocalypse”

RATING: R (Partial nudity, coarse language, excessive gore and violence)

CREDITS: Directed by Alexander Witt. Written and co-produced by Paul W.S. Anderson. Visual effects produced by Alison O’Brien.

RUNNING TIME: 94 minutes

WEB SITE: www.re2.com

MAXIMUM RATING: FOUR STARS

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