Review

Review

FEARNET Movie Review: 'Resident Evil: Retribution'

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Over the course of the first four Resident Evil movies, we've been treated to a bunch of side characters and locations of carnage that pop up in the video games -- but end up adding very little to the actual film versions. This is Milla Jovovich's franchise, clearly, and while there's next to nothing in the characterization and plot continuity departments of the Resident Evil series, that's not about to stop the fifth chapter from pretending that previously established side characters and subplots somehow matter all of a sudden. The result is a clunky and modular cash-grab of a part five, and not even this long-standing fan of the franchise could find much to like about Resident Evil: Retribution. Aside from a rather nifty (backwards and slo-mo) opening credits sequence and a small handful of suitably amusing action beats, Resident Evil 5 is just about as stale, obvious, and lazy as sequels get.

Clearly working under the impression that his franchise is already a wacky mess, Resident Evil king Paul W.S. Anderson takes the easy way out. While his previous entries were slight and simplistic, they all presented relatively logical stories: A to B to C affairs that delivered lots of gory CGI silliness as they rambled along between plot points. Resident Evil: Retribution doesn't even deign to fake a plot. We open with some brief connective tissue to Resident Evil 4, followed by a long and goofy recap of "the story so far," and then a long dream sequence that adds nothing but extra running time, and then ... bang, Alice wakes up somewhere, mostly naked and unhappy. 
 
That's when we learn that she's being held captive in a massive facility beneath Russian ice, and she needs to get from the "lab hologram" to the "Japan hologram" and end up at the "suburbia hologram" to meet a team of rescuers. Not only is this a painfully lazy and perfunctory way to cobble a plot together, but it removes any of the "stakes" that may have survived from the previous Resident Evil movies. What was once a story about a zombie plague that was accidentally unleashed by a nefarious corporation has congealed into a series of progressively dumber action sequences featuring a hot, skinny redhead who simply cannot be killed. We revisit so many old faces and places that Resident Evil: Retribution starts to feel like a "clip show" TV episode or a "greatest hits" CD. Clip shows, greatest hits CDs, and Part 5s are generally lazy things.
 
What was once slick and slightly novel has become a parody of itself. As Alice wanders from fake city to fake city we're offered appearances from "old friends" like Jill Valentine (Sienna Guillory), Rain (Michelle Rodriguez), Luther West (Boris Kodjoe), and the perpetually sneering Albert Wesker (Shawn Roberts), but since every character is a clone, a hologram, or a brainwashed moron, their inclusion doesn't add up to much besides grist for the fanboy mill. 
 
Franchise stalwarts may appreciate a "return" to rainy Japanese intersections or laser-filled hallways, but speaking as only one fan, Resident Evil: Retribution feels like a particularly lazy affair. Despite some fine cinematography and yet another cool Tomandandy score, there's an almost ruthless lack of creativity on display here -- as if Paul W.S. Anderson simply hates screenwriting, and merely needed a frame on which to hang a bunch of familiar locations and dishwater-dull characters. And aside from the aforementioned credits sequence, this new entry doesn't even up the ante, action-wise. The gunfights, the monsters, the hyper-edited martial arts nonsense ... it's all old-hat by now.
 
Like most of the Resident Evil films, Retribution is at its best when it's just focusing on the visual lunacy, but even its few worthwhile action sequences are, without fail, punctuated by another volley of clunky, unnecessary plot exposition. Like we need a spoken explanation of how a super-computer can create man-eating zombies, but somehow cannot shut down its own elevator. These movies are sometimes very sly with their self-deprecation, but Part 5 is constructed in a sloppy and very basic fashion, as if all we need is just enough action bits and "hero shots" to fill an enticing trailer. These movies have always been unapologetically dumb, but Resident Evil: Retribution is the first one that seems dismissive of its own audience. Combine that with a sluggish pace, tons of laughable dialogue, and a blatant disregard for basic storytelling, and you're looking at the first Resident Evil film I've actively disliked. 
 
And yes, the ending is left open for yet another one.
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