Running time: 107 minutes. Rated R (strong violence and gore, and language throughout.) In theaters Wednesday.
After six critically derided “Resident Evil” movies over 14 years, a return trip to Raccoon City wouldn’t be my first pick for a holiday.
Yet the reboot of the video-game franchise, called “Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City,” has been given the gift of extremely low expectations. It’s the first watchable entry in the series. For once, you don’t envy the lucky people who get killed by zombies.
The 2002 original, in which star Milla Jovovich’s preferred method for incapacitating the undead was by breaking their necks with her thighs, came out when railing against the man was all the rage. Green Day’s anti-establishment album “American Idiot” followed it two years later.
The timing made sense for a corporate screed, but it resulted in an obnoxiously self-serious movie, given the zombies-live-underground plot and aforementioned thigh-to-neck combat style.
“Raccoon City” is still about the menacing, all-powerful Umbrella Company, a pharmaceutical giant whose secret human experiments lead to a local apocalypse, only now it’s much funnier and leans more horror than action. It’s the spawn of “Shaun of the Dead” and “Stranger Things.”
Kaya Scodelario plays Claire Redfield, a tormented badass who returns to the town she grew up in as an orphan to visit her brother Chris (Robbie Amell), who’s a cop there. She wants to warn him about the nefarious deeds Umbrella has been up to in Raccoon City. Claire picked the wrong day for a family reunion.
That’s because the citizens have been infected with a virus that turns them into human-hungry corpses, and Claire, Chris and their cop pals must escape before they become brain-eaters and Umbrella blows the place to smithereens.
Wrapped up in the scheme is Dr. Birkin, a smiley baddie who becomes a grotesque villain.
Don’t ask me how well the story matches up with video games. I couldn’t care less.
And it doesn’t really matter. The film is empty-headed good fun that’s blessedly under two hours and has just enough character development to make you kind of care when someone gets bitten.
Director Johannes Roberts’ movie is also shrewdly set in 1998, so there are no smartphones or ubiquitous 24-hour cable news networks to make communication easier. The characters stare in awe at a Palm Pilot and ask “what the f – – k is a chatroom?”
The ending doesn’t make it clear if a sequel is planned. But when it comes to squeezing all the pennies they can out of this franchise, expect Sony to be pure “Evil.”
Credit: Notigroup Newsroom.
[This article may have been written with information from various sources]