Now, what makes an R-rated horror/sci-fi/action film which is based on a videogame good, you may ask? Well, right off the bat any such film will want to have at least a brief glimpse of former supermodel Milla Jovovich without her clothes on. And, as if by magic, that's what you get right off the bat in Resident Evil. In fact, the film opens and closes with Milla Jovovich largely undressed, which certainly bespeaks of the genius of director Paul W.S. Anderson.
Next, of course, and this basically goes without saying, you want a lot of flesh-eating zombies. Some films try to get away with five or 10 or maybe a couple of hundred flesh-eating zombies, as though the American movie-going public were naive enough to fall for that. Sorry, Mr. and Mrs. Hollywood Bigwig, but here in America we demand at least 400 flesh eating zombies, if not more. I don't want to give away too much about Resident Evil to those lucky enough to be able to look forward to seeing it, but let's just say that there are somewhere between 499 and 501 flesh-eating zombies in it, just to give you a ballpark figure.
Now, and I almost hate to mention this, because it seems a bit vulgar, but there's something else we want in a film. Not much of this, mind you, but just a little bit of it, and that's a plot. I know, how "modernist" to demand a plot. How old-fashioned, how unaware of po-mo trends in discontinuous narrative. But still, we can't completely rise above our caveman past: we humans just like stories.
Shockingly, Resident Evil actually has a plot. The plot involves a number of people running around while being chased by flesh-eating zombies. I think they stole this plot from Romeo and Juliet, or maybe it was Night of the Living Dead--I always confuse those two--but still, it's a time-honored plot that basically works.
Director Anderson is smart enough to spread the discrete plot elements out over the course of the movie, so such questions as "who are these people running from the flesh-eating zombies?" and "why is it that these zombies are so into flesh-eating?" are not answered all at once. No, there's actually some mystery and intrigue, which is just the kind of thing you need between scenes of zombies doing things like running after people and eating things like flesh.
I really cannot stress the importance of this enough. There are people who love the movie The Matrix. Let me say this, and I think this is an objectively true, non-controversial point: The Matrix sucks. It's a sucky movie. Here's why: there's 20 minutes of mystery and suspense, and then 45 minutes of expository dialogue that gives away every plot element, mystery or unanswered question in the film. Then the characters just kick ass for the final hour of the film. Well, that's not how good films work, Mr. and Mrs. Matrix Fan. Good films have something called "pacing." Look it up.
Resident Evil, I swear to you, is actually well-paced. I mean, we don't expect much from action/horror/sci-fi movies based on video games, but they should at least not be dull. Resident Evil fails to be dull. It's fun, it's action-packed, and it features Milla Jovovich wearing a costume made of two large napkins and some scotch tape. Furthermore, when it stops for a bit of plot, it doesn't linger too long. It never devolves into long-winded exposition. It has very little cringe-worthy dialogue. In fact, it has very little dialogue, mostly telling its story in pictures. You know the kind of pictures: the ones that feature zombies exploding or supermodels undressing. The kind of pictures that made America great.
I really think we have director Paul W.S. Anderson to thank for this, as he's the genius who directed Soldier, one of my favorite art-films of all time. Soldier, for those of you who missed it, features Kurt Russell as a futuristic super-soldier who must fight to save a small space colony from the threat of even more futuristic super-soldiers. And here's what makes Soldier great: even though Kurt Russell is the lead, and he's in virtually every scene, he has less than 60 words of dialogue. That's 60 words. I'm sure you're all running out to buy the DVD now, but after you've done that you should run off and see Resident Evil. Well, you should run off and see it if you're the kind of person who likes R-rated action/horror/sci-fi movies that are based on videogames. You know the kind of person I mean. The best kind of person in the world: An American person.