Latest CGI ‘Resident Evil’ movie brimming with gorgeous action
The deeper we dive into Capcom’s 20-year-old “Resident Evil” series, the more it seems as if nothing will ever get better in this virus-infested world. If it’s not one zombie-making virus running amok, it’s another; if it’s not one crazed villain with way too much money, it’s another. And no matter what the series’ heroes accomplish in one setting, it just seems to be the prologue to something much more deadly later on.
Such is the strangely bitter tone that permeates “Resident Evil: Vendetta,” the franchise’s third CGI film following “Degeneration” and “Damnation.” (As with the most of the rest of the world, we’re going to ignore the Milla Jovovich-led live-action films.) As the video game universe started expanding, leaving Raccoon City and plaguing cities and countries around the world with viruses and zombies and horrific genetic mutations, the films, which canonically occur between main-series “RE” games, have become ever more grim. The sense that series protagonists such as Leon S. Kennedy are endlessly struggling in a war in which they see no end is becoming suffocating, to the point that it’s changing the very core of these fan-favorite characters.
“Vendetta” opens with a sequence starring Kennedy (with Matthew Mercer returning to voice) questioning why he continues to fight against B.O.W.s (Bio-Organic Weapons) that seem to sprout up every couple of seconds. A or the leading role in “Resident Evil 2,” “Resident Evil 4,” “Resident Evil 6” and the two previous CGI films (the character even shows up in one of the live-action films), Kennedy has been fighting the good fight since Umbrella Corp. first unleashed its t-Virus in the Arklay Mountains near Raccoon City in 1998; it’s not hard to see why he’d be more than a bit jaded by this point, even if it’s distressing to see him start to lose faith.
But you can’t blame him: “Vendetta” introduces yet another madman with a carnage-inducing virus at his disposal. This lovely gentleman, Glenn Arias (voiced by John DeMita), has a score to settle (get the title now?), and he doesn’t particularly care who dies in the process. A merchant of death, he sells his bio-merchandise to anyone willing to pay, which, as you can imagine, has governments around the world none too happy.
Enter Chris Redfield (Kevin Dorman), who has been in even more “Resident Evil” franchise material than Kennedy. Redfield is tasked with apprehending Arias in what may be the most evil-looking mansion ever. (If you get Spencer Mansion vibes here, that was director’s Takanori Tsujimoto intention, I assure you.) But, as if you didn’t already know, the whole operation goes sideways, leaving Redfield chasing after Arias and his terrifying viral weapon.
But if you thought it would be the two guys saving the day, “Vendetta” actually brings back chemist and all-around favorite Rebecca Chambers (voiced by Erin Cahill), popularized in “Resident Evil” and “Resident Evil 0.” The brilliant young woman has been working to develop vaccines to the recent viral outbreaks, and her research proves pivotal to Redfield’s mission.
The two former S.T.A.R.S. operatives team up and head off to find Kennedy, whose expertise with a certain organism may come in handy. The rest of the film chronicles how the trio tries to stave off a major B.O.W. terror attack, with the guys generally using their brawn and the chemist using her massive intellect.
Speaking of brawn, the physical action in this movie is bananas. Fans joke that Redfield can obliterate boulders with a single punch, and Kennedy is basically a hand-to-hand combat god, but what these two accomplish this time around is simply ridiculous. But what do I know: Maybe B.S.A.A. and government training means you can drive a motorcycle with a single foot or take on a horde of zombies single-handedly.
And it’s not just the action that out of control. As with most “RE” entries, “Vendetta” has a bit of a plot problem. In effect, it assumes that individuals are capable of actions that clearly couldn’t be done by one or even a couple of people. Getting into specifics would spoil, but it’s pretty easy to notice even early on that some scenes don’t make much sense.
But despite the outrageous factor, the action sequences in “Vendetta” are phenomenal. Lightning-paced and gorgeously choreographed, the film’s multiple battles are heart-pounding examples of CGI done right. I complimented the work done in “Resident Evil: Damnation,” but this is a step above even that. It’s clear where the money went.
On a more technical note, “Vendetta” is loud. Like, so loud I wondered if the mixing was off. I don’t think it is; I think the film is just meant to blow out your eardrums. Headphone-wearers, beware.
In the end, “Resident Evil: Vendetta” is a thrilling, if predictably convoluted entry in the long-running series. Its darker tone, especially with the always-keep-fighting Kennedy, is a fresh if disconcerting turn, and the return of Chambers had me smiling. I’m curious how events that unfolded here affect the greater “RE” universe, especially after the film’s stinger. But even if nothing comes of it, audiences will have a new appreciation of the meaning of “vendetta.”
Four “Was that a ‘Breaking Bad’ joke?!” stars out of five.