My hat's off to Resident Evil: The Final Chapter: it surely does seem to mean its title literally. When it's over, the series mythology has been wrapped up nice and snug, and while it leaves the promise that there will be many more adventures to be had in this universe, it does so in exactly the opposite manner of setting up a cliffhanger, as other five movies in the series have all done. It is... comforting? Weirdly so. And satisfying. As someone with a love-hate relationship to the Resident Evil films that I've gradually come to realise really is just love, I found myself oddly moved by the sense of completion, the nice shape of the six-part narrative inaugurated in 2002 with the unfaithful video game adaptation Resident Evil.

All of this does not mean, I should hasten to point out, that The Final Chapter is actually "good", and I say that as someone who has finally concluded that at least the last two, Resident Evil: Afterlife from 2010, and Resident Evil: Retribution from 2012, actually are good, despite all the evidence. This is mostly for one reason: The Final Chapter is edited for shit. Lest that sound like some kind of mindlessly petty formalist nitpicking, let me promise you, it is edited. For. Shit. It's so conspicuously bad that you could use it to demonstrate what editing is to somebody who otherwise has never thought about the fact that movies are constructed objects. Not because it introduces continuity errors, or is in some other way defective; at least I don't think so. It's too damn fast-moving to be sure, and that is exactly the problem with it.

The action scenes have been shaved down to the shortest shots that I suppose human perception is able to deal with, or maybe just a frame shorter than that, assembled in what IΒ think is a reasonably order to explain the narrative and define spaces and all that. Maybe if you were watching at 20% speed, or were a hummingbird, this would be as elegant and smooth as you please. Speaking as a human, I found it more than slightly nauseating, hectic enough to make Moulin Rouge! or The Bourne Ultimatum seem altogether drowsy and logy. Given that at their worst, and at their best, theΒ Resident Evil movies have generally served as not much more than a delivery system for action choreography, the difficulty of comprehending the action qualifies as a uniquely damaging flaw.

Despite this, I find myself warmly disposed towards the film, somehow. For it does manage to provide the other thing that the Resident Evils have been good at all the way back to 2002, which is Milla Jovovich being a taciturn badass. Like any of us, I can but speculate on the state of Jovovich's marriage to Paul W.S. Anderson, but surely it must be a happy one: for six films now, Anderson has served as writer and producer, and four times (including this one) as director, of a series whose mere existence serves as tribute to Jovovich's awe-inspiring to do... well, not much, if we're going to really sit down and parse it, but that's movie stardom for you. Whatever she lacks as an awards-caliber actor, Jovovich possesses four times over as a towering screen presence, who has evolved over the course of the Resident Evils into the role of implacable, steely-eyed gunslinger with icewater in her veins, very much in the tradition of Clint Eastwood's early career. Lines of dialogue that are, by every reasonable measure, subliterate bullshit have a way of sounding furiously potent in her delivery.

Jovovich has been the centerpiece of this franchise since the second scene of the first movie, but The Final Chapter still manages to one-up all of the others in terms of giving itself over to her completely. Whatever the plot is, exactly, I can't say - post-apocalyptic zombie slayer Alice (Jovovich) has to make her way from the desolate ruins of Washington, D.C. back to Raccoon City, where the zombie plague first broke out 10 years ago, to find the previously unmentioned magic cure before the outlandishly contrived countdown timer reaches zero; much stuff happens along the way involving many good and some bad characters, three of whom we've seen before (Ali Larter's Claire Redfield, Iain Glen's Dr. Isaacs, Shawn Roberts's Wesker). It's all a slurry of barely-motivated setpieces and effectively glum set design that both imply the filmmakers have seen Land of the Dead, but don't really remember it.

More to the point, it's a celebration of all things Alice, who finally gets that backstory the films have been conspicuously and showily denying her this whole time, providing Jovovich with the absolute biggest and most elaborate material to play that she's ever had in this franchise, maybe in her whole career. She is outraged, betrayed, suffused with existential dread, given multiple distinct characters to juggle, provided with many Schwarzeneggerian mirthlessly sarcastic one-liners. Nobody would ever walk out of this saying, "That Milla, she's one of the greats!", but I will frankly be both impressed and surprised if the young 2017 is able to produce a more gratifying marriage of an actor's particular limitations with the iconic, mythic qualities of the action hero they've been given to play than this. And it needs hardly be said that such a character almost certainly wouldn't take the form of a woman, which is neither inherently good nor inherently bad, but is decidedly worthy of attention.

Whether this is enough, I cannot quite say. To start with, "enough" for what? The Final Chapter offers the strange spectacle of an action movie with a world-class action hero and unbearably shitty action walking hand in hand; it tones down the gore of the previous movies, but replaces them with a tangible feeling of crescendoing as it goes along - the film absolutely knows it's a finale, and keeps announcing that fact with autumnal, somber moods, or at least the nearest that such a loud filmmaker as Anderson is able to get. The result is a movie that keeps feeling intensified even without necessarily intensifying anything, simply from the sensation we get of drawing nearer and nearer to the end of the journey, and the increasingly portentous, awestruck things all of the characters say, like even they know that this is the last Resident Evil. While it's distinctly lacking all around, particularly compared to the last two - it's much uglier, and more generic in its setting and design, and the setpieces are all retreads of something, including of this very franchise in some cases - there's some je ne sais quoi about it that makes it feel rousing despite itself. It's such a "one for the fans" proposition that I almost can't stand it, but then, can't you kind of get away with that in the case of a fifth sequel that has "final" right in the title?