With its fifth film release, the “Resident Evil” series is competing with the likes of the “Harry Potter” and “Saw” series as one of the longest continuous movie franchises. Director and writer Paul Anderson directed the past “Resident Evil” films and demonstrates a cheaply entertaining, albeit rudimentary, action film with “Resident Evil: Retribution.”
The film begins in similar fashion to the earlier “Resident Evil” films. Alice (Milla Jovovich) wakes up in a mysterious location. After the movie recounts the closing battle of the previous film, and a computer image of Alice narrates a synopsis of the four previous films, Alice awakens with little idea of what is going on. After several zombie attacks, Alice finds herself imprisoned in a facility run by a rogue super-computer intelligence called the Red Queen. Alice receives instructions from her old enemy Albert Wesker (Shawn Roberts) to meet up with a rescue team before an army of zombies and cloned soldiers, loyal to the Red Queen, kill humanity’s chance for survival.
The cast performances feel like B-rated sci-fi action fare. Jovovich and the rescue team sent after her rarely show fear as they spout cheeky lines and blast or fight everything they see. Rain (Michelle Rodriguez) is the most fun to watch. Playing a series of clones within the facility, her personality shifts from a simple, nonviolent housewife to a cold-blooded, parasite-injecting super soldier.
“Resident Evil: Retribution” is as simple a movie as they come. It follows the style of a video game to a tee. The protagonist wakes up, is quickly thrown into a hostile situation and eventually receives instructions on how to escape. She then proceeds through numerous strange and exotic “levels” and fights various minions and “bosses.” The film represents these video game references in ceaseless action sequences. It is tracked on a video game-like CG map of the facility.
The movie has an abundance of outlandish fights of superhuman characters flying through the air and gun battles involving hundreds of rounds of ammunition sprayed at various opponents. Sometimes it’s a shoot-’em-up, other times it tries to be a zombie horror film with characters running for their lives from hordes of the undead and giant mutant animals. It even has a car chase and a few shots reminiscent of a large-scale disaster film like “The Day After Tomorrow.” This rapid pace and nonstop violence can easily satisfy the action audiences, but can also leave other audiences bored.
“Resident Evil: Retribution” serves as a stepping-stone after all the previous “Resident Evil” films. It is a definite cliffhanger for the next film. This is implied in one of the film’s best shots, in which the camera zooms out on a razed Washington, D.C. The last survivors of humanity fortify a blasted White House while hordes of the undead and mutants swarm against barricades. “Retribution” leaves little time for story development or long scenes of character interaction: Everyone is just trying to get out alive. The only exception involves a subplot with a clone child named Becky (Aryana Engineer), who through extenuating circumstances believes Alice is her mother.
The plot would seem completely contrived and confusing if not for the four previous movies summarized in the introduction. “Retribution’s” placement within this saga can make it feel like a stepping-stone and trailer for the final battle. The action is done well enough, but it’s likely to leave audiences unsatisfied, simply waiting anxiously for the final battle they want to see.
“Resident Evil: Retribution” provides a cornucopia of Hollywood violence and action. It may have a hollow story and characterization, but it gives the loyal fans just what they ordered.
Overall rating: 2 ½ stars
The fifth installment in the ‘Resident Evil’ series plays on its video game origin.