Resident Evil: Retribution
by Seth Robison
Rama Rating: 5 out of 10
The little video game movie franchise that could and its seemingly ageless star, Milla Jovovich, is back with a fifth entry, Resident Evil: Retribution to again battle with the most implacable of foes: the foreign cinema market.
Scripted in the universal language of action movies, Resident Evil: Retribution details the continuing adventures of Jovoich's non-game canon hero Alice, who is still blazing though an alternate cinematic variant of the Resident Evil world. Picking up just moments after the end of Resident Evil: Afterlife, Retribution starts with a splashy and clever opening action sequence it then spoils by having Jovovich monologue in character the plot points of the previous four movies then hammering the 'through-the-looking-glass' metaphor pretty hard with a sequence of jump scares. Only then does the movie proper start, with Alice charged to escape another massive Umbrella Corporation subterranean base (one built with plenty product placement opportunities in mind) all the while butchering zombies, name checking artifacts from the video game series and expanding the film's mythology to incorporate more of how the last three games have changed the franchise’s direction away from just zombies.
Probably a benefit of not having much of a personality of her own, Jovovich's Alice seems remarkably resilient to having her world softly rebooted with, and often within, every film. An attempt to fix that by injecting a subplot that recalls the Ripley-Newt relationship from Aliens falls flat thanks in part to the obvious surrogate the child is for the real daughter of Jovovich and her husband, Resident Evil: Retribution Director Paul Anderson and the fact that she, Aryana Engineer (Orphan), is not only imperiled by zombies and worse, but is tragically hard of hearing.
Retuning to the cast is one original character from Afterlife: Boris Kodjoe's ex-pro basketball player Luther West who's apparently gone Special Forces in between movies, despite such little time between them. Sienna Guillory (Eragon) has her third (which is not the charm) try at Jill Valentine, this time as the mind controlled version of her character from the Resident Evil 5 game. Michelle Rodriguez (Avatar), thanks to the magic of Umbrella Corporation cloning, is back and clearly having the best time of anyone on set in a double role as good and bad versions of herself, as would Oded Fehr (The Mummy) as Resident Evil 3's Carlos Olivera if his talent wasn't criminally underused here.
Finally a handful of actors were cast for their resemblance to characters from the games and not their talent just so fans of the franchise can see Ada Wong, Leon S. Kennedy, Wesker and Barry Burton run around dressed in their signature outfits acting just as wooden as game developers working with the technology of ten-plus years ago made them.
Performances aside, Resident Evil: Retribution's action is at least on-par with other entries in the series; wire-work and slow motion rule the day. The mostly practical fight effects are a nice break at least from the flashy blipvert editing that keeps cinephiles away from the theaters in droves during the summer. Though shots of the CG set-pieces and creatures indicate that the best software/hardware/talent was not in this film's budget. The fight choreography overall was passable, once the boring gunbattles gave way to hand-to-hand fights. Anderson definitely borrowed a page from Oldboy for a hallway fight between Alice and a dozen zombies and a key five person brawl was surprisingly fun to watch.
It shouldn't come as a shock at this point that the door was left open for another game-universe-defying sequel, one that might be the story's climax although that depends on how well the dubbed versions do in Europe and Asia.