REVIEW: Resident Evil: Afterlife (Paul W.S. Anderson, 2010)

Her name is Alice. She was head of security at The Umbrella Corporation's underground laboratory. She remembers everything, and now she's back to kick your ass in Paul W.S. Anderson's second directorial effort and fourth overall installment in the undead exploitation opera that is the Resident Evil film series (Alexander Witt and Russell Mulcahy directed Apocalypse and Extinction, respectively, while Anderson, who is to Roger Corman as Rob Zombie is to Alice Cooper, wrote and produced).

2002's initial film was marrow-chilling fun while it lasted, but it wasn't until '04's bombastic sequel I really perked up to take note. Extinction, unfortunately, was more fun to anticipate than actually experience, but all that and far more is forgiven here in the Afterlife.

The inherent horror zombies bring to the table is not entirely out the window, but as Apocalypse accomplished with bravado, this new piece is all about sleek action, sexy aesthetic and the "woah" factor. Imagine Keanu's monosyllabic moment of marvel from The Matrix, mix in a racing pulse, gaping grin and a single sneaky tear of bliss and you've basically pictured me for Afterlife's entire ninety-seven-minute runtime (though admittedly I wasn't having as good a hair day as Keanu was on that rooftop). Only two times before do I recall exiting a theater shaking with excitement from what I had just seen. This makes three.

Let's just talk about the first act. Forgive my hyperbole, but the fifteen-twenty minute sequence is a masterpiece of action - one of the greatest I've seen. It embraces a stark and stylized production design (as does all to follow), coins the descriptor "jaw-dropping" and smacks strongly of Æon Flux' dynamic (and characteristically ambiguous) pilot short for Liquid Television in which the seemingly unstoppable title femme plows through hordes of henchmen. If this opening were a short in and of itself, it would still warrant full accolades. Anderson & Co. should be damn proud.

For all the characters picked off or left behind by the Extinction, the Afterlife proves bountiful with lovable new protagonists and love-to-hate-'ems, including a sniveling movie producer - likely Anderson's critique of Hollywood money men who've shafted him in the past. Of course a few familiar faces are back, along with a thrilling surprise appearance from one thought lost (hint, hint, tease, tease). If Sylvester Stallone's new crew is The Expendables, the ever-electrifying Milla Jovovich as Alice and the much-missed Ali Larter as Claire form a duo of "Expendablettes". The two women, formidable as they are gorgeous, tear up scenery with a trove of automatic weapons and equally deadly smirks of sick pleasure for each baddie they topple. As for villainy's chief executor this time 'round, he may be the cheesiest cheeseball since Blade: Trinity's take on Dracula (excuse me... "Drake"), but his firmly gelled hair and contrivedly bemused demeanor hardly matter in the face of their literally breathtaking surroundings. Besides, 'tween our heroes' cleanly shaved heads and perfectly groomed beards, the macho malefactor is far from alone in holding personal preening before post-apocalyptic survival.

I fondly recollect discussing Marilyn Manson's score for the original Resident Evil with Miami Rhapsody composer Carlos Hernandez. Carlos quipped something to the effect of, "It sounds as though hammer-toting apes were set loose in a kitchen". Funny and memorable though his observation may have been, I have to disagree. That first film's hard electronic backing signified its companion scenes, making for a taught and occasionally terrifying experience. Tomandandy's (a pair of composers named - go figure - Tom and Andy) avant-garde score for this latest installment brings back the pounding, experimental techno with hard guitar edge. Even the least imposing scenes meet you halfway, beckoning further with powerful and seductive electro-rock.

All considered, this film may be the boldest an actioner has been since '05's Doom went berserk in first-person-shooter mode, and it's thanks in no small part to the third dimension. I've gone back and forth regarding the spatial technology's resurgence, but now I've been field-goal-kicked from the fifty, scoring a critical two pointer for Team Triple-D. Afterlife embodies precisely how I feel 3D should be used in the realm of entertainment while exploring creative new executions. Honestly, I shudder at the prospect for at-home re-watches in 2D since here the 3D is so deeply woven.

Throughout Resident Evil: Afterlife, I hardly wanted to blink for strong desire to bask in every last morsel of audio/visual awesomenosity. Had nature called, it would have heard a busy signal for I wasn't about to budge. Never before have I enjoyed a movie so rabidly. Seriously. Please. Bring on the fifth. Resident Evil: Rebirth?