Review: ‘Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City,’ starring Kaya Scodelario, Hannah John-Kamen, Robbie Amell, Tom Hopper, Avan Jogia, Donal Logue and Neal McDonough

November 22, 2021

by Carla Hay

Avan Jogia and Kaya Scodelario in “Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City” (Photo by Shane Mahood/Screen Gems)

“Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City”

Directed by Johannes Roberts

Culture Representation: Taking place in 1998 in the fictional Midwestern town of Raccoon City, the horror flick “Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City” features a predominantly white cast of characters (with a few multiracial people) representing the working-class and middle-class.

Culture Clash: A woman in her 20s returns to her childhood hometown of Raccoon City to visit her cop brother, only to discover that Raccoon City will soon be overtaken by zombies and is the target of a more sinister plan. 

Culture Audience: “Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City” will appeal primarily to fans of the “Resident Evil” franchise and anyone who doesn’t mind watching a predictable and silly horror flick.

Robbie Amell, Chad Rook, Hannah John-Kamen and Tom Hopper in “Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City” (Photo by Shane Mahood/Screen Gems)

When will the makers of bad zombie films learn that gory doesn’t always equal scary? “Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City” has plenty of gore but absolutely nothing terrifying or imaginative. It’s just a ridiculous rehash of all the things of people hate the most about terrible horror movies: Shallow characters who make dumb decisions; unrealistic action scenes; and muddled storytelling that fails to be engaging.

By now, the “Resident Evil” movie series (which is based on the “Resident Evil” video games) has such a tarnished reputation for being low-quality junk that audiences should expect that any movie with the words “resident evil” in the title will be nothing but schlock. But schlock can be entertaining if it’s done the right way. Unfortunately, “Resident Evil: Raccoon City” is more of the same disappointing garbage.

Paul W.S. Anderson, the writer/director of most of the “Resident Evil” movies, is not the writer/director of “Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City,” but he is an executive producer. Instead, Johannes Roberts wrote and directed “Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City,” a prequel that starts off with the most tiresome cliché of tiresome clichés in a horror movie: The “fake-out freak-out” scene where something frightening is supposed to be happening. But surprise! It was only someone’s nightmare. This is how the movie’s two sibling main characters are introduced.

Claire Redfield (played by Kaya Scodelario) and her older brother Chris Redfield (played by Robbie Amell) are first seen as children in the Raccoon City Orphanage, where they have been living since their parents died in a car accident. Claire is about 8 years old, while Chris is about 10. Raccoon City is in an unnamed U.S. state in the Midwest. (“Resident Evil: Raccoon City” was actually filmed in Canada, in the Ontario cities of Sudbury and Hamilton.)

While at the orphanage, which looks more like hospital in a war zone, it’s nighttime, and Claire is woken up by someone who seems to have touched her. Viewers will see a gnarly and dirty hand with long fingernails outstretched as if it’s going to hurt Claire, but the hand suddenly pulls back.

Claire tells Chris what she thinks she saw. “She’s here again!” Claire says in an alarmed voice. Chris tells Claire that whatever Claire saw, it was probably her imagination. However, Claire is convinced that something strange is in the orphanage. She takes a look around the orphanage to investigate.

And sure enough, crouched in the corner of a room in a makeshift tent is a mutant-looking woman, with matted hair and distorted physical features. It’s the same woman who tried to wake up Claire. This severely disfigured woman, who doesn’t look entirely human, is wearing a wristband with the name Lisa Trevor (played by Marina Mazepa). Claire now knows this woman’s name.

Instead of screaming or running away, like most people would do, Claire calmly asks, “Where do you live?” The woman writes down on a piece of paper: “Below.” Suddenly, the orphanage’s resident doctor appears and startles Claire by asking her: “What are you doing, little girl?” It’s then that Claire screams out loud, and the scene cuts to the adult Claire waking up because this entire childhood scene was supposed to be a nightmare.

It’s now 1998, and Claire is now in her late 20s. Her nightmare happened while she was napping in the passenger seat of a truck. She’s a hitchhiker on her way to visit Chris. And the sleazy truck driver (played by Pat Thornton) who’s giving her this ride is trying to put some moves on her, but she’s clearly not interested. Don’t expect this movie to reveal what Claire is doing with her life, but she obviously doesn’t have the money to rent a car, take a taxi or hire a car service.

It’s pouring rain at night, as it often does in horror movies when people are driving on a deserted road and this next thing happens: Someone suddenly appears out of nowhere in front of the automobile, like a ghostly figure. In this movie, the wannabe road-kill stranger is a woman, and the truck driver ends up hitting her because he couldn’t swerve away fast enough.

When the trucker and Claire get out of the truck, the bloodied woman hisses like the zombie that she is, and she runs away into a nearby wooded area. Meanwhile, the trucker has a dog that gets out of the truck too. The dog licks some of the zombie’s blood off of the street, so you know what’s going to happen to the dog later in the movie.

Somehow, Claire makes it to Chris’ home. Instead of seeing if he’s home, she just breaks into the house like a thief. It turns out that she hasn’t seen or spoken to Chris for five years, and her visit is unannounced, but it’s still no reason to break into his house. It’s just an example of how stupid this movie is. Chris is home and is shocked to see Claire, who tells him sarcastically that he’s not a very good cop if he doesn’t have good security for his home.

Claire notices a framed photo in Chris’ house that seems to disturb her. He’s in the photo with the same scientist/doctor who frightened Claire in her nightmare. This scientist really exists and he’s a menacing person from Claire’s past. His name is William Birkin (played by Neal McDonough), who is the movie’s obvious villain. (He’s got plenty of sneers, smirks and crazy-eyed stares to make it obvious.)

Claire’s immediate reaction is repulsion when she finds out that William has become a father figure/mentor to Chris. A flashback in the movie later shows why she thinks William is evil. Chris, on the other hand, completely trusts William. Chris tells Claire that William helped Chris out a lot in life, and William is the closest thing that Chris has to family. Of course, since the movie telegraphs so early that William is an evil scientist, there’s no suspense at all when his “secret” is revealed.

It’s explained in some captions on screen that Raccoon City used to be a thriving community. The city’s biggest employer was a pharmaceutical company called Umbrella Corporation, which had its headquarters in Raccoon City. However, a scandal nearly destroyed the company. And now, Raccoon City is a shadow of its former self. The only people who have remained in Raccoon City are some employees of Umbrella and “people who are too poor to leave.”

It’s revealed a little later in the movie that Claire ran away from Raccoon City when she was a teenager. Chris somewhat resents her for it because he feels that she abandoned him, and she’s the only biological family that he has. Why is Claire back in Raccoon City if she dislikes it so much? She’s had a “premonition” that something bad is going to happen there, and she wants to convince Chris to move out as soon as possible.

She shows Chris a videotape that she has of a former Umbrella employee named Ben Bertolucci (played by Josh Cruddas), who claims to be a whistleblower exposing some of the company’s secrets. One of the biggest secrets is that Umbrella “poisoned the water” in the area. And there was a “really bad leak” that could do Chernobyl-like damage to the area. Ben says he has information that this explosion will completely destroy Raccoon City by 6 a.m. on the day after Claire has arrived to urge Chris to evacuate.

Most of the action in the movie starts after 11 p.m. on the night before this supposed explosion, and then the climactic part of the movie is close to the 6 a.m. deadline. And where exactly is Ben now? That’s shown in the movie, but in a very haphazard way.

At first, Chris doesn’t think there’s any merit to Ben’s claims. But then, people in Raccoon City start turning into zombies. It becomes a race against time to not only survive the zombies but also try to find a way out of Raccoon City before it supposedly explodes.

This relatively low-budget movie has a relatively small cast of characters. The only people who are seen actively trying to leave Raccoon City are Claire, Chris and Chris’ co-workers in Raccoon City’s small police force. These other cops are:

  • Chief Brian Irons (played by Donal Logue), who’s a loud-mouthed bully.
  • Leon S. Kennedy (played by Avan Jogia), a mild-mannered rookie cop who is the target of Chief Irons’ worst taunting.
  • Jill Valentine (played by Hannah John-Kamen), a sassy extrovert who seems to be attracted to Leon, even though she’s dating another co-worker.
  • Albert Wesker (played by Tom Hopper), who is Jill’s boyfriend and someone who thinks he’s the bravest one on the police force.
  • Richard Aiken (played by Chad Rook), a generic and forgettable cop.

Leaving the city isn’t as easy as it sounds. Government officials have sealed off the roads leading out of the city and have stationed armed security at the borders to prevent anyone from leaving. One of the characters in the movie finds out the hard way about these barriers. The cops try to exit Raccoon City by getting a helicopter from a guy named Brad Vickers (played by Nathan Dales), but that plan doesn’t go smoothly.

And because this movie takes place in 1998, smartphones don’t exist. Needless to say, the landline phones aren’t working during this crisis. There’s brief mention of Internet service, but this is in the days of dial-up Internet service, which needed landlines. In 1998, an example of cutting-edge mobile technology was a PalmPilot, which someone is seen using in the film, even though it doesn’t help that person get out of this emergency situation.

One of the many reasons why this movie looks so phony is that all the young cops in the movie look exactly like who they are: physically attractive Hollywood actors. There are no “average” lookers in this bunch of young, subordinate cops. The only middle-paged person on the police force is Chief Irons, who turns out to be a coward of the worst kind. You don’t have to be a cop to know that there’s no city police force in the world where everyone except the leader is a good-looking person under the age of 40.

Maybe the filmmakers of “Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City” think that having “eye candy” cops would distract viewers from the movie’s dumb plot. One of the more ludicrous scenes in the movie takes place at an eatery called Emmy’s Diner. Leon notices that his waitress Jenny (played by Louise Young) has a right eye that’s bleeding.

When he shows concern and asks Jenny if she’s had a doctor examine her eye, she says no. Jenny adds that her eye has been bleeding this way for the past two weeks, but “it’s no big deal.” Of course, we all know what’s going to happen to that waitress in this zombie movie.

Everything is so monotonously formulaic in “Resident Evil: Welcome to the Raccoon City.” After a while, you can almost do a countdown to the clichés that will come next. There are too many scenes where someone shows up at just the right moment to “come from behind” to shoot someone. One particular character in this movie is saddled with this over-used cliché.

And for a movie about zombies, the cops are woefully incompetent in killing them. They often don’t shoot the zombies in the head. And if they do, they don’t check to see if the zombie is really dead. It’s all just a way to pad and stretch out the story with weak attempts at jump scares involving zombies that looked like they’ve been killed but aren’t really dead after all.

None of the acting in this movie is very impressive. Jogia portrays Leon as having a mostly nonchalant attitude during this whole crisis, with only a few scenes where he looks realistically frightened. McDonough goes in a completely opposite direction because his wild-eyed performance is very over-the-top. The filmmakers intend to make Leon an underdog whom audiences are supposed to root for to succeed. However, the movie tells almost nothing about Leon except that his father is a high-ranking police officer in another city, and Leon was transferred to Raccoon City as punishment for accidentally shooting his cop partner in the rear end.

The movie’s visual effects are adequate, but there’s nothing innovative at all. Lisa is supposed to look like a “two-headed monster” with a mask made out of flesh. It literally looks like the movie’s makeup department just glued a mask to the actress’ face to make it look like she has two heads sticking out of her neck. Everything in “Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City” has been done already in better horror flicks about zombies or mutants.

Claire is the story’s central protagonist, but viewers will learn nothing about who she was as an adult before she arrived in Raccoon City. For a better thriller movie starring Scodelario, see 2019’s “Crawl,” where she plays a college student trapped in a house with alligators during a hurricane. “Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City” has a mid-credits scene with the appearance of mysterious spy character Ada Wong (played by Lily Gao), but this cameo does nothing to redeem the rest of this junkpile movie.

Screen Gems will release “Resident Evil: Welcome to Racoon City” in U.S. cinemas on November 24, 2021.

Review: ‘The Broken Hearts Gallery, starring Geraldine Viswanathan, Dacre Montgomery, Utkarsh Ambudkar, Molly Gordon, Phillipa Soo, Arturo Castro and Bernadette Peters

September 11, 2020

by Carla Hay

Geraldine Viswanathan and Dacre Montgomery in “The Broken Hearts Gallery” (Photo by Linda Kallerus/TriStar Pictures)

“The Broken Hearts Gallery”

Directed by Natalie Krinsky

Culture Representation: Taking place in New York City, the romantic comedy “The Broken Hearts Gallery” features a cast of Asians and white people (with a few African Americans and Latinos) representing the middle-class.

Culture Clash: A 26-year-old woman, who’s been dumped by an ex-boyfriend and fired from her art-gallery job, tries to get over her problems by helping an aspiring hotel owner decorate his boutique hotel, even though her personal style clashes with his.

Culture Audience: “The Broken Hearts Gallery” will appeal primarily to viewers who like formulaic romantic comedies that have people with mostly relatable personalities.

Molly Gordon, Geraldine Viswanathan and Phillipa Soo in “The Broken Hearts Gallery” (Photo by George Kraychyk/TriStar Pictures)

The romantic comedy “The Broken Hearts Gallery” is so unapologetically mushy and predictable that it would be absolutely a chore to sit through this movie if it didn’t have its share of charming moments. Much of the credit goes to star Geraldine Viswanathan, whose quick-witted comedic timing and her keen ability to bring a sense of fun to the story end up saving what could have been a mostly forgettable and cliché film.

“The Broken Hearts Gallery” is the feature-film debut of writer/director Natalie Krinsky, who previously worked as an occasional writer on “Gossip Girl,” the primetime soap opera about upper-class young people in New York City. “Broken Hearts Gallery” is also set in New York City, but the young people at the center of the story are definitely less privileged than the wealthy scions of “Gossip Girl.”

Lucy Gulliver (played by Viswanathan), the story’s 26-year-old protagonist, is an assistant at an upscale and trendy art gallery. She has dreams of owning her own art gallery someday. Lucy lives with her two best friends—sarcastic and bossy Amanda (played by Molly Gordon) and womanizing lesbian Nadine (played by Phillipa Soo)—and they have all been close pals for years.

Amanda is currently a law student, but a running joke in the movie is that she’s always giving unsolicited legal advice, as if she’s already a lawyer. Amanda is also in a relationship with a guy named Jeff (played by Nathan Dales), who is mostly silent and henpecked by Amanda. (When Jeff finally starts talking, it’s one of the funnier parts of the movie.) Meanwhile, Nadine has a thing for dating Russian models, but then she gets bored and usually ends the relationship to move on to her next conquest.

The beginning of the movie shows the trio of gal pals while they were seniors in high school in an unnamed suburb of New York, with Lucy already planning to live in the big city. Lucy has just gotten dumped by a boyfriend, and Amanda and Nadine are comforting her while Lucy is nursing her broken heart. It’s a scenario that gets repeated more than once in the movie.

One of Lucy’s quirks is that she likes to keep mementos and knickknacks, including those that remind of her of ex-boyfriends. She freely admits she’s a pack rat, while some people might describe her collecting habit as hoarding, because she keeps things such as toenail clippings. Her hoarding isn’t at a dangerous level, but it’s odd and more than a little creepy.

Eight years after graduating from high school, Lucy’s life seems to be going fairly well for her. She’s been dating a 35-year-old co-worker named Max Vora (played by Utkarsh Ambudkar), who is the gallery’s recently promoted director. Max and Lucy have been keeping their romance somewhat hidden from their colleagues because they don’t want it to be a distraction at work. Lucy gushes about Max to Nadine and Amanda, by describing him as such a perfect romantic boyfriend that he cooks dinner for her. Meanwhile, Nadine and Amanda secretly take bets on how long Lucy’s most recent romance will last.

Lucy idolizes her boss Eva Woolf (played by Bernadette Peters), the gallery owner who named the art gallery after herself. Eva doesn’t have much tolerance for people she thinks are flaky and dumb. You know where this is going, of course. Lucy will make a fool out of herself at work because of something to do with Max. This embarrassing incident happens during a big exhibit opening at the gallery, where Eva, all of the gallery’s employees and many important clients are in attendance.

Lucy has been asked to get up on stage in front of the assembled crowd and introduce Max as the gallery’s new director. As she’s about to give her introductory speech, Lucy sees Max canoodling in the audience with a woman whom she recognizes as Dr. Amelia Black (played by Tattiawna Jones), Max’s most recent ex-girlfriend. Lucy has already had too much to drink because she was nervous about making this speech. And so, when Lucy sees Max getting too close to this other woman, Lucy goes into a tailspin and has an epic, jealous meltdown in front of the entire audience. As if that weren’t enough, drunken Lucy ends up tripping and falling flat on her face.

As Lucy runs out of the gallery in a humiliated daze, Max follows her outside and explains that Amelia was living in Paris but has recently moved back to New York City. And now, Max tells Lucy that he wants to get back together with Amelia. And there’s more bad news for Lucy: Eva was so mortified by Lucy’s public meltdown that she’s also sent Max to tell Lucy that she’s been fired.

As she’s reeling from this extremely bad night, Lucy just wants to go home, so she gets into a car that she thinks is the rideshare that she had booked. As she starts to tell the driver about her “worst night ever,” the driver repeatedly tells her that he’s not her rideshare driver, but Lucy is so absorbed in her misery that she won’t listen. Finally, the driver, whose name is Nick (played by Dacre Montgomery), decides to placate Lucy and drives her home.

When she gets home, Lucy realizes the man who drove her home isn’t the rideshare driver she booked. She’s once again embarrassed, but she tries to turn it around and make Nick look bad by accusing him of being a creep. She also comments that for all she knows, he could be a serial killer, and now he knows where she lives. Will this be the last time that Lucy sees Nick? Of course not.

In several very contrived situations, Nick just happens to be nearby at the exact moment that a lovelorn Lucy sees Max and makes a pathetic attempt to get Max’s attention. One of those moments is the next time that Lucy and Nick see each other. Lucy has followed Max into a restaurant, where he’s having a dinner date with Amelia. The restaurant hostess tries to block Lucy from going over to the table because Lucy doesn’t have a reservation. And right at that moment, when Amelia is about to act like a psycho ex-girlfriend and charge toward Max, Nick shows up and prevents Lucy from approaching Max, who sees Lucy anyway.

As Nick steers Lucy away from this potentially embarrassing situation for her, she gets very irritated with him and asks Nick if he’s been stalking her. Oh, the irony. Lucy and Nick get to talking, and he tells her a little bit more about himself. He’s trying to fulfill his dream of opening a boutique hotel called the Chloe Hotel. However, what he doesn’t tell her right away and what very few people in his life know is that Nick is almost broke and headed for a possible financial disaster since he poured his life savings into the hotel, which is nowhere near being completed.

One person who knows about Nick’s money problems is his best friend/business partner Marcos (played by Arturo Castro), who hasn’t been paid for a while and has decided to take another job because his wife Randy (played by Megan Ferguson) is pregnant, and they need the money. Marcos has a wry sense of humor, which goes a long way in being a counterbalance to some of the sappier moments of the movie.

Nick shows Lucy the unfinished hotel, which used to be a YMCA building. Lucy has a garbage bag with her that contains several old mementos from her ex-boyfriends, including Max. Nick, who calls her a hoarder, tells Lucy that his style is the complete opposite of hers, because he’s a minimalist. Meanwhile, there’s a large empty picture frame in the hotel that Lucy spontaneously uses to hang up one of the items in the garbage bag: a necktie that used to belong to Max.

And because Lucy is a wannabe art gallery owner. she calls this room in the hotel the Broken Heart Gallery, because of this “art display.” She scrawls a note next to the frame that explains why this necktie is from an ex-love and why it’s being discarded. Not long after that day, Nick tells her that an anonymous person came into the hotel and must have seen this necktie display because the person hung up an item with a note that it’s also from an ex-love.

Lucy takes a photo of this burgeoning art exhibit and posts it on social media. It becomes a such a viral hit that she gets the fundraising idea that people can start stop by the unfinished hotel to drop off mementos from ex-lovers and leave messages that can be displayed in the Broken Heart Gallery. Visitors can also give donations as part of the gallery exhibit. The intention for this idea is that people who contribute to the gallery can get closure from painful breakups, because the gallery displays will be cathartic enough to help them move on.

And when Nick mentions to Lucy that Marcos got another job and the hotel’s interior designer quit, Lucy volunteers to be the hotel’s interior designer. Nick says no, but after much persistence from Lucy and much hemming and hawing from Nick, she ends up being the hotel’s interior designer. Nick and Lucy don’t really discuss payment for this job, but even if they did, it’s very easy to see how this movie is going to end.

Before that happens, there are the usual shenanigans in romantic comedies that have this type of would-be couple. “The Broken Hearts Gallery” uses the old “opposites attract” trope as much as possible to show how Lucy and Nick get on each other’s nerves, but they also can’t seem to stay away from each other. Lucy is high-strung and kooky, while Nick is laid-back and analytical. The character of Nick is somewhat generic, and his main purpose in the movie is to play the straight man to Lucy’s wackiness.

Nick and Lucy become platonic friends, but have conflicts with each other, while Lucy puts herself in more embarrassing situations in an effort to get back together with Max. Nick’s and Lucy’s friends (and viewers who’ve seen enough romantic comedies) know where this is all headed. But, of course, the two people who are supposed to end up together are the last people to admit it.

Underage teenage girls are the target audience for “The Broken Hearts Gallery,” so things don’t get too raunchy in the movie. Adults watching this film will probably wish that the movie had more mature humor, since too many of the so-called adults in this movie act like they’re still in high school. (To see Viswanathan in a rowdier comedy film, check out 2018’s “Blockers,” where she was a standout in the movie too.)

Lucy is proud of her eccentricities, but some of her irrationally jealous behavior panders to some awful stereotypes about how pathetic and catty women can be when it comes to fighting over an ex-love. Lucy handles love in an uncomfortable and awkward manner that’s sometimes realistic and sometimes too over-the-top. This movie is a romantic comedy, so it isn’t supposed to be about realism all the time.

However, some of the dialogue is absolutely cringeworthy. In a scene where Lucy and Nick have some alone time and open up to each other, Lucy says to him: “We’re good together, you and me. The monster and the human. Humans need monsters to stir things up. And monsters need humans to fix everything they break. It’s just simple science.”

One of the more charming qualities of Lucy is that she’s more optimistic than Nick is about life and how to deal with problems. When more problems start to pile on Nick, he wants to abandon his dream to build the hotel, but Lucy gives him a pep talk and encourages him not to give up so easily. Meanwhile, Nick slowly starts to show that he has a romantic side, which is refreshing to Lucy, who says she’s used to men not being supportive of her and her dreams.

“The Broken Hearts Club” also has a very good supporting cast that makes the material a lot more engaging than it should be. Gordon, Soo and Castro all have moments when they somewhat steal scenes. (Gordon’s comedic timing is the most natural-looking and funniest of the supporting characters.)

And there are a few other supporting characters who are in Nick and Lucy’s world, including an Eva Woolf Gallery co-worker who’s nicknamed Harvard (played by Ego Nwodim), because she’s a know-it-all who likes to brag that she went to Harvard University, and she constantly chastises Lucy about being clueless about life. Celebrity chef Roy Choi has a cameo as himself. Suki Waterhouse plays someone who has a past connection to someone in the movie.

“The Broken Hearts Gallery” has the obligatory karaoke scene, which seems to be a staple of every other predictable romantic comedy. There’s also the “big argument” scene, where the would-be couple has an estrangement. There’s absolutely no suspense over whether or not they’ll kiss and make up by the end of the story.

There are a few “surprise” twists to the movie that aren’t shocking because it all just adds up to more schmaltz. “The Broken Hearts Gallery” is not for hardcore cynics, but it’s a predictable and harmless movie that’s made enjoyable mainly because of the winning performance by Viswanathan.

TriStar Pictures released “The Broken Hearts Gallery” in U.S. cinemas on September 11, 2020.

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