'The Founder' and 'Resident Evil: The Final Chapter' Reviews

Franchising: Making America Great

The Founder
February 3, 2017

Milkshake machine salesman Ray Kroc (Michael Keaton) is a hustler.

Not in the criminal, con-man sense—though there is always a whiff of snake oil emanating from Keaton, whose arch-eyebrowed eyes dart hither and yon, looking for every angle. He's not a crook, exactly, but you get the feeling from his pitch for a multi-mixing milkshake machine that he knows he's selling useless junk to small businessmen who don't really need it. "Increase supply, demand will follow," Kroc says, first to himself and then to a litany of uninterested managers.

No, Kroc is a hustler in that he's always looking for the next big thing, the best and brightest but not necessarily easiest way to make his fortune. Multi-Mixers are a misfire, just as the Fold-a-Nooks ("Like a Murphy Bed, for your kitchen!") before them. Finally his hustling pays off in the form of McDonald's, a fast food restaurant run by brothers Dick (Nick Offerman) and Mac (John Carroll Lynch) that has mastered the art of efficiency and speed, dispensing cheeseburgers, fries, and shakes with alacrity and accuracy.

Impressed by the brothers' own hustle—the inside of their store is spotless, burger boys and fry guys spinning and twirling and exchanging consumables as if set to Tchaikovsky—Kroc hits upon the thing that will make him one of the wealthiest men in the world. It's not the restaurant itself: McDonalds' shtick was good, undoubtedly, but limited in scope.

Rather, Kroc's fortune comes from an idea: franchising. The Founder is perhaps properly understood as a movie about an idea more than a man, an idea whose impact would change the face of America in ways greater than any single man or marketplace ever could. We are, perhaps, meant to look askance at Kroc's crowing that he is "the founder" of McDonald's, but in a sense he is: Without Kroc, McDonald's is just a roadside burger joint in San Bernardino, one that probably goes extinct after the brothers pass.

Getting McDonald's in front of as many people as possible in as many locations as possible, selling the same burgers at the same price in the same spotless stands under the same Golden Arches: That took skill and effort and forward-thinking. It took hustle. It took Ray Kroc.

The Founder is no hagiography; indeed, it's a bit of a demonization. Keaton's Kroc is compulsively watchable without being charming in the slightest, the sort of over-caffeinated underachiever for whom one feels comfortable having equal measures pity and contempt. That this lisping huckster triumphs over the brothers McDonald—played affably by Offerman and Lynch, a duo who prove that American charm and American ingenuity will lose out to American drive and American dirtiness every time—feels both cruel and, in some ineffable way, inevitable.


Speaking of dirty franchises, the Resident Evil saga drew to a close last month with the release of Resident Evil: The Final Chapter.

I'll admit to being a bit lost in the early going of The Final Chapter, having only half-watched the series' last two entries late at night on cable after some immoderate number of adult beverages. The original Resident Evil, released in 2002, was a solid if unspectacular action-horror film that caught the early edge of the zombiegeist, debuting the same year as 28 Days Later and a couple years before the remake of The Dawn of the Dead. Well deserving of its spot on the (very) short list* of "best movies based on a video game," Milla Jovovich's initial turn as Alice was entertaining and competently put together by Paul W.S. Anderson.

It helped that the original had not only the best cast in the series, featuring supporting performances from Michelle Rodriguez and James Purefoy, but also the simplest, most-straightforward plot line: a paramilitary team needs to infiltrate an underground laboratory ("The Hive") and stop the spread of a deadly virus developed by a corrupt corporation looking to sell bioweapons.

Fast forward to this, the sixth installment, and that simplicity has gone out the window. Along the way Alice has become infected with the virus in ways that make her superhuman, and there are clones and the world has been destroyed and there are underwater facilities mimicking the world's metropolises and oh yeah the clones and of course zombies and axe-wielding zombies and flying pterodactyl zombies and did I mention the clones because no one seems to die anymore in this series and it is kind of annoying.

Alice awakens in The Final Chapter in the ruins of Washington, D.C., where a villain from the previous installments betrayed her. After engaging in a brief, editing-bay-constructed car chase featuring a winged demon of sorts, Alice is informed by the Red Queen—an artificial intelligence that ran the security in The Hive of the original film—that there is, lo and behold, an antidote to the T-Virus that has devastated the globe. Furthermore, it is located in The Hive. And, finally, if she doesn't pick it up within the next 48 hours, "the last outposts of humanity" will be wiped out.

I just want to pause for a moment to note that at no point does Anderson really explain how the last strongholds of humans will be killed. In what manner, exactly, will the evil Umbrella Corporation, under the leadership of Dr. Isaacs (Iain Glen), eliminate mankind once and for all? Missile strikes, maybe? Hand-to-hand combat? I suppose it doesn't matter, but the thoughtlessness and off-handed manner with which this threat is delivered greatly decreases any sense of stakes and any notion of tension.

It's odd, I guess, to worry about the structural integrity of something as flimsily and haphazardly slapped together as the Resident Evil mythos, but I'll admit to being vaguely and increasingly annoyed by the amount of retconning Anderson had to do to achieve his series' desired conclusion. The slapdash closing moments—an unearned twist that constitutes a monument to half-thought-out, treacly sentiment—stands in stark contrast to The Final Chapter's gritty, eerie set design. A mix of devastated ruins and high technology that seamlessly combines dot matrix printers with high-def video projections, the world Anderson has built owes equal debt to the games he is nominally adapting and the efforts of Roger Christian, the world-builder of Alien and Star Wars: Episode IV.

*Resident Evil resides on this list just behind Silent Hill, Christophe Gans' creepy adaptation of the game of the same name, and just ahead of Mortal Kombat, an entertaining-enough fight movie from Anderson that calls to mind lesser Bruce Lee. That's the entire list. Every other video game movie is irredeemable garbage.

Published under: Movie Reviews