While the first slate of live-action Resident Evil movies recently came to a close with Resident Evil: The Final Chapter, the CG-animated features just keep getting better. Inspired by Capcom’s action/horror game franchise that has been running strong for more than 20 years, the animated movies bring fan-favorite heroes, over-the-top villains, and bigger-than-life monsters to the screen in ways not possible with live-action. Resident Evil: Vendetta is just the latest example of how CG-animation can go toe-to-toe with live-action when it comes to delivering horror, action, and flat-out entertainment.
Directed by Takanori Tsujimoto, known for action-focused live-action films like Bushido Man and Hard Revenge, Milly: Bloody Battle, Vendetta sees Matthew Mercer returning to voice the role of Leon S. Kennedy. Joining the franchise hero for this adventure are BSAA co-founder Chris Redfield (Kevin Dorman) and professor Rebecca Chambers (Erin Cahill). They unite to take down the newly introduced villain Glenn Arias (John DeMita) who plans to use his scientific expertise (and amazing combat skills) to achieve vengeance on those who wronged him … at any cost. Resident Evil: Vendetta is a fast and fun feature film that’s sure to delight fans of the franchise while also offering up an entertaining ride for folks who love the occasional jump scare, choreographed gunfight, and on-screen arrival of monstrous abominations.
The plot of Resident Evil: Vendetta unfolds with a horror-focused prologue that tracks Chris Redfield as he leads a team of soldiers to take down Arias in his dilapidated mansion. The camera lingers on this mansion for good reason since it harkens back to very familiar settings and moments from the Resident Evil franchise, something this film does quite well throughout. What unfolds over the next 10 minutes or so is a tense cat-and-mouse game between the military unit and the horrors that await within the mansion. And for fans of horror, this sequence is the movie’s best; the rest of the film still manages to blend horror and action, but the latter takes over throughout the telling. What we’re left with, after some gruesome imagery and excellent animation bringing the horrors of the house to life, is an understanding of just how formidable a villain Arias really is.
From there, Resident Evil: Vendetta gets more into the main story … after a brief aside that explains just why Arias is so pissed off at everyone to begin with. He has a good reason and he’s a great villain throughout, but his story’s twists and turns are some of the best WTF moments in the film that deserve to be discovered unspoiled. He’s so badass, in fact, that it takes three heroes to equal his villainy, though Arias is helped out on occasion by two henchmen: a nearly silent yet deadly assassin lady in a skin-tight, black jumpsuit and a hulking monstrosity that’s more metal than man. These characters were used just enough throughout the film to satisfy a viewer’s curiosity, though I wouldn’t have been upset to see a little more from them.
Essentially, super-agent Chris Redfield enlists the help of big-brain Rebecca Chambers, a professor who has been studying recent viral outbreaks and thinks she has found a vaccine and cure for the manufactured disease. The missing piece of their puzzle rests with Leon Kennedy, who is now a haunted and hesitant shell of his former self, played quite well by Mercer. Once Leon gets pulled back into the fight against his will, the action really takes off. The good news is that Chris and Leon get to show off some fantastic driving skills and fighting techniques for the rest of the film while grotesque baddies pour out of the woodwork; the bad news is that Rebecca is more or less resigned to being a damsel in distress for the remainder of the piece, including an ultimate confrontation between our heroes and villains.
The Good: The action in Resident Evil: Vendetta is top-notch, jaw-dropping at times. I particularly liked the attention to detail for both Chris and Leon’s fighting skills; Chris favors an assault rifle and combat knife, using his size and strength to fight his way out of close combat situations, while Leon prefers a pair of dueling pistols and a more fluid, flowing style of fighting. Action director Kensuke Sonomura outdoes himself in this movie by bringing some epic, live-action fighting/shooting choreography to the animated realm; the movie’s worth a watch for these sequences themselves.
Street-level action is bonkers as well. One of the best sequences in the entire film involves Leon riding his Ducati through the streets of New York City to lead a pack of zombified dogs to their deaths; it’s one of the more ridiculous but highly entertaining things you’ll ever see. Oh, and the battle against the final villain features a spectacular weapon and its unintentionally devastating effects. Other highlights include the film’s solid voice-acting, endless hordes of the undead, and delightfully twisted villain in Glenn Arias.
The Bad: While the action is superlative, the animation doesn’t always keep up with it. This is a beautifully animated film when allowing the camera to pan slowly across a setting or when characters are having a quiet discussion, and it’s kinetic and frenzied during appropriate, highly choreographed fighting sequences, but there are moments of unintentional hilarity scattered throughout. There’s the occasional noodle-arm fighter wailing on an opponent, or a body-slamming zombie who comes screaming in from off-screen, or a lack of sync in dialogue, but the animation is mostly solid.
The writing, however, almost takes you out of the experience. Even though fantastically shot action sequences establish the villain’s backstory and ultimate plan, heavy-handed exposition lays out the finer points of the plot again and again, hammering them into audiences as if their minds were as slow as the undead themselves. We get it. And folks who are bothered by details such as bullet count (which fluctuates wildly throughout the film) and gaping plot holes will almost certainly find themselves a bit irritated here.
The Ugly: There’s really only one thing that bothered me throughout the film and that’s the treatment of Rebecca Chambers. Early on in the film, she’s clearly the brains of the operation and is the only one who has the solution to the biggest threat posed by Arias. She also, inexplicably, is the only one to figure out Arias’ overly complicated and ridiculous plan, giving her team the knowledge needed to save the day. And yet, she’s reduced to little more than a damsel in distress by the movie’s end. There’s even a scene in which Rebecca is knocked out only to wake up in a strange place, in strange clothes, and in the presence of a very strange kidnapper … and yet she takes all of this in stride and just goes along with his whims to the detriment of her well-being. If that wasn’t bad enough, the ultimate plan behind the kidnapping is much, much worse, and it undermines everything Rebecca had done up until that point. It’s a shame, but at least it’s not a silver bullet to being able to enjoy the rest of the movie.
Resident Evil: Vendetta is far from a perfect movie, but it’s highly enjoyable for fans of the source material and non-fans alike. The horror is satisfying and the action is super entertaining, offering a welcome chance to dive back into the world of Resident Evil. There are twists and turns aplenty that will have you sitting forward in your seat, as well as some of the craziest WTF moments you’ll see in a film this year. It’s worth a watch for sure, but it’s also certain to be appreciated by fans of the franchise moreso than others.
Resident Evil: Vendetta plays in theaters for one night only on Monday, June 19th, and will be available digitally on Tuesday, June 20th before arriving on a variety of Blu-ray and DVD combos on July 18th.