Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City Review

PLOT: Claire Redfield (Kaya Scodelario) returns to Raccoon City to investigate the sinister Umbrella Corporation and rescue her older brother, Chris (Robbie Amell), a cop investigating the dangerous Spencer Mansion on the outskirts of town. 

REVIEW: The Resident Evil film series has long been a cash cow for Sony’s Screen Gems and Constantin Films. Having run six instalments, the Milla Jovovich-led movies have collectively made well over a billion dollars worldwide, and it didn’t take long after 2017’s Resident Evil: The Final Chapter for all involved to reboot the franchise. With Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City, a new creative team has come on board to take the series back to its origins. They’ve done so by crafting a film that hews closely to the storyline of the first two games and takes place in 1998 to boot, which – in real life – was when the games were becoming a pop culture sensation.

So – how does it fare? Well, I hate to be the bearer of bad news. As far as reboots go, this one does not inspire much hope for a new, enduring series of zombie action flicks. By the time nearly an hour of the running time has passed with little to no action, you’ll be missing Milla Jovovich kicking butt in the much less ambitious but a lot more entertaining original series.

I get what they were doing here. They were trying to stick to the games, but I don’t think they had the budget to make a movie that could go toe to toe with the rest of the franchise. There’s so much exposition going on in the first hour that for the longest time, you feel like you’re watching cut scenes from the video game. The writing is schlocky at best. The characters do annoying things like constantly introducing themselves by their full names so that you know what character from the games they are supposed to be playing (as if fans didn’t already know). Once the action kicks in, it’s all very low-budget and generic. There are no big, heroic moments or unforgettable kills and the climax is ridiculously rushed. As silly as the image of Milla Jovovich doing a flying roadhouse kick on a zombie dog was in the first film, at least it wasn’t something you’d forget. Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City is boring. The Paul W. S. Anderson movies were silly, but they weren’t dull. 

The cast in this is a mixed bag. The movie is an adaptation of the first two games, meaning the action is episodic and split up. On the one hand, we have Kaya Scodelario‘s Claire Redfield returning to Raccoon City to help her brother and teaming up with Avan Jogia’s Leon S. Kennedy along the way. On the other, Chris Redfield, played by Robbie Amell, and Hannah John Kamen’s Jill Valentine are fighting for their lives in the creepy Spencer Mansion just within the city limits. The cast is uniformly striking, meaning they look great in their parts, which is something I guess. Scodelario’s always struck me as a massive star just waiting to happen, but Claire’s mostly saddled with exposition. Jogia’s Leon is the comic relief, with him a none-too-bright cop none of the others trust. The two probably do the best acting jobs in the movie, outside of Donal Logue, who chews the scenery as the Raccoon City Chief of Police.

Amell and Kamen get comparatively less screen time. Amell’s Chris Redfield is off-screen for something like half-hour at one point, making me wonder if his availability was limited. Amell is fine, but not given a heck of a lot to do except being the goodie-too-shoes cop that pines over Kamen’s Valentine, who lusts over the brawny Wesker (played by Tom Hopper in a sadly wooden performance). Kamen has a lot of presence, and Valentine should have been a kick-ass role, but her screen time is limited like everyone else. Maybe there are just too many characters for a movie that only runs 100 minutes. Neal McDonough is also onboard as the movie’s big bad, William Birkin, but I think he’s been used too often as bad guys. I feel like I’ve seen this performance from him before. I wish Hollywood would start casting him against type. I would have gotten a kick out of him as the police chief and Donal Logue as the villain, but I digress. 

Director Johannes Roberts does what he can with the material. He has fun with the nineties setting, with some choice needle drops, although the constant references to chat rooms, Blockbuster Video and Palm Pilots get a little wearying. The best thing about the movie is the slick lensing by DP Maxime Alexandre, a favourite of many genre directors, and I can see why. He makes the film look great.

GORE: Sure, there’s a bunch of gore, but it’s very much in the usual Resident Evil vein, meaning it’s cartoonish. I believe more practical stuff was done this time, but the movie definitely won’t be slammed as ultraviolent. It felt tame (to me anyway), although they sprinkle in an obnoxious amount of F-words as if they were added after the fact to prove the movie is “hardcore.”

BOTTOM LINE: The Resident Evil movies have never been great, but until now, they’ve always (at least) been fun. The folks behind Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City had good intentions but are saddled with a by-the-numbers script and too low a budget. If the franchise continues, they’ll need to put a lot more into the next film as this doesn’t quite cut it. 

Claire Redfield (Kaya Scodelario) finds herself in a creepy situation in a new clip from the Resident Evil reboot Welcome to Raccoon City.

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About the Author

Chris Bumbray began his career with JoBlo as the resident film critic (and James Bond expert) way back in 2007, and he has stuck around ever since, being named editor-in-chief in 2021. A voting member of the CCA and a Rotten Tomatoes-approved critic, you can also catch Chris discussing pop culture regularly on CTV News Channel.