Reviewed by Scott Weinberg
Maybe it's because I'm a sucker for slickly-shot mindless crap, or maybe it's because I have a mad, throbbing crush on Milla Jovovich, but I consider the first Resident Evil a perfectly entertaining piece of genre junk. Not even remotely a cult classic or a misunderstood masterpiece, but a well-paced and colorful romp through gunsville and zombietown. The first sequel, Resident Evil: Apocalypse, has a (very) few isolated moments of pulp and zest, but for the most part it's a grungy-looking and all-but-incomprehensible mess of a movie. So when word came down from Sony that a second sequel was in the works, I (like many horror geeks) found myself slightly hopeful -- but mostly skeptical. That the producers had enlisted a veteran genre director (Russell Mulcahy) instead of hiring another first-timer gave one a little dose of optimism -- but not all that much, really.
Tangentially connected to its predecessors by only a few confusing plot threads, Resident Evil: Extinction is little more than three popular genre flicks tossed into a blender: The Road Warrior, 28 Days Later, and Day of the Dead. (And, in one key-yet-silly scene, The Birds.) So there's the short version right there: If you want to see a sketchily-constructed and predictably silly combo of those four flicks, then you'll probably have a diverting enough time with RE3. (Note that I never once said it's a great movie.) Plus, "diverting" is not exactly the same thing as "entertaining." When it comes to a "part 3," though, it's smart to be grateful for small favors. Plus, as I believe I already mentioned, this is one of those movies that stars Milla Jovovich. And call me a horn-dog, but she makes just about anything watchable.
Anyway, here's the drill: The evil bastards at the Umbrella Corporation, after causing a global pandemic and killing billions of people, are now trying to clone the heroic "Alice" in an effort to destroy the T-virus (plus they're trying to "domesticate" the ravenous monsters, for some stupid reason). Alice, for her part, wanders the arid desert, stopping occasionally to get ambushed by toothless slobs or wander through empty buildings. In subplot #3 we have a bunch of uninfected survivors who maintain a road-bound convoy so as to stay one step ahead of the teeming undead. All three story threads manage to collide in a burnt-out husk of Las Vegas, although the setting isn't nearly as exciting as you might think.
And yet ... while I think I've been pretty honest with what I see as the film's shortcomings, it takes only half an attention span to notice that producers Paul Anderson and Jeremy Bolt are actually trying to expand the franchise's horizons. Whether or not they succeed is your call (and mine), but to go from the first flick's underground claustrophobia to the sequel's teeming streets and now settling on a horror-action-sci-fi (western?) that takes place almost entirely during the day? Somewhat impressive. And while there's almost nothing in RE3 that could be truly described as "scary," there are a few well-timed jolts, a lot of gooey gore, and one or two surprisingly crisp action sequences. (Truth be told, it's much more an action flick than it is a horror movie, but fans of either genre may be adequately entertained.)
Most critics with a soft spot for this sort of stuff would call the Resident Evil trilogy a "guilty pleasure," but I feel no guilt in enjoying the equivalent of a B-grade cinematic comic book. A marked improvement over the fairly flat Resident Evil: Apocalypse (but still not as entirely amusing as the first chapter), RE3 is a perfectly enjoyable -- if not exactly brain-taxing -- weekend time-waster. Plus, like I said, Milla's still on board. When she bails on the series, I'll officially turn in my RE fan club card.
Sony delivers the genre concoction in a pretty fine DVD package. The flick looks great in its anamorphic widescreen transfer, and the audio is suitably kickin' when it has to be. For extras we get a 9-minute block of (wisely) deleted scenes, a surface-deep but slightly informative "making of" doco that runs about a half-hour, and a feature-length audio commentary with Anderson, Bolt, and Mulcahy. Even as a fan of the series I think Mr. Anderson over-praises the flicks just a bit, but there's also a sincere sense of enthusiasm for the movies and the games. (Plus I think the director often gets a really raw deal from the genre fans, so perhaps I'm being a little nice.)
Overall, an inexpensive way to complete your Resident Evil DVD trilogy. Fun, forgettable stuff -- but also a (slightly) better film than the reviews would have you believe.