Improved sequel packed with zombies, babes, action

If you're in the market for an action-packed time-killer, you might be surprised by "Resident Evil: Apocalypse." It's junk, but it's fun junk, and its target audience won't be disappointed.

Better yet, this obligatory sequel makes up for the wretched mess that was 2002's "Resident Evil," a gonzo horror flick based on the popular Capcom video game, in which freshly minted action babe Milla Jovovich kicked zombie butt to the tune of $100 million in global box-office sales. Not bad for a Ukrainian waif who supermodels better than she acts. "Fifth Element" fans rejoice! The girl's finally found her niche.

After a handy recap for those who wisely avoided the first film, "Apocalypse" picks up where "Resident" left off, with Alice (Jovovich) held captive as a guinea pig by the nefarious Umbrella Corporation, whose experiments in "viral weaponry" produced the first movie's accidental horde of zombies.

With genetically enhanced senses and martial-arts skills, Alice escapes from Umbrella's subterranean lab, The Hive, only to find the metropolis of Raccoon City (how's that for civic nomenclature?) overrun by zombies. Umbrella is planning to nuke the city, but not before unleashing its latest monstrosity to track Alice down.

Movie review

Showtimes and trailer

"Resident Evil: Apocalypse," with Milla Jovovich, Oded Fehr, Sienna Guillory, Jared Harris. Directed by Alexander Witt, from a screenplay by Paul W.S. Anderson. 93 minutes. Rated R for violence, profanity, brief nudity. Several theaters.

That hulking weapon is Nemesis (imagine the Terminator crossed with one of Clive Barker's "Hellraiser" demons, mega-weapons blazing), and in addition to being a bulletproof monster extraordinaire, he's a tragic link to the first film, best known to gamers as the namesake of "Resident Evil: Nemesis," from which this movie borrows much of its story, characters and imagery.

Alice can fend for herself, but she's got high-caliber allies in elite-force mavericks Jill Valentine (British hottie Sienna Guillory, a dead ringer for the game's secondary heroine) and Carlos Olivera (Oded Fehr, from "The Mummy"). Their escape from the city is aided by an Umbrella scientist (Jared Harris), whose young daughter is lost in zombie town.

Mayhem ensues with crowd-pleasing regularity, and after honing his skills as second-unit director on "Gladiator," "Black Hawk Down," "The Bourne Identity" and other prestigious action films, first-time director Alexander Witt brings whiplash efficiency to what is essentially a generic hybrid of "28 Days Later," "Escape from New York" and "Dawn of the Dead." It's hardly original, but Witt's a better craftsman than "Resident Evil" director Paul W.S. Anderson, who wrote this monster mash in high spirits before directing last month's disappointing "Alien vs. Predator."

The undead masses lurch along like rejects from George Romero's "Living Dead" saga, but there's a wicked encounter with loopy-tongued mutants called "Lickers," and those goopy Dobermans return for a snarling show of four-legged fury, prompting one of the funniest lines of dialogue.

At this point, "Resident Evil 3" is a given; is it too much to hope for another incremental rise in quality?

Jeff Shannon: