“You’re all going to die down here.”
-The Red Queen
The Resident Evil franchise began in 2002 and has been pumping out sequels ever since. The mastermind behind this series is none other than Paul W.S. Anderson who has had an incredibly spotty career as a director with only a couple of films being solid. While the first Resident Evil was a solid B-movie, the series has gotten gradually dumber and more ridiculous with each passing film in the franchise. While the series has never been known for its high quality of film making, they have been more or less a fun way to pass the time. Does Retribution do anything to excite the series or is this fifth entree three too many?
Resident Evil Retribution picks up the second the last movie let off with Alice(Milla Jovovich) being attacked on the freighter by none other than Jill Valentine(Sienna Guillory). Just to note: The opening sequence plays backwards in slow motion only to immediately play normally. It was pretty cool but accomplished absolutely nothing. Alice is beaten and taken to Umbrella’s underwater base in Russia. After waking up and discovering her surroundings she is let out by Ada Wong(Bingbing Li) who is working with Albert Wesker (Shawn Roberts) to save the human race and needs Alice’s help(which is incredibly opposite of what he was doing in the last movie with no explanation). Wesker has assembled an extraction team made up of Leon Kennedy(Johann Urb), Barry Burton(Kevin Durand), and Luther West(Boris Kodjoe) to get them out of the base. As Alice and Ada fight their way through the different sections of the base(based on Tokyo, New York, Moscow, and Raccoon City) they run into from resistance from bioweapons and clones of former allies like Rain(Michelle Rodriguez), Carlos(Oded Fehr), and One(Colin Salmon). Most of the movie unfolds as Alice and gang try to find their way out of the base and make it to the surface.
This movie is absolutely ridiculous and is filled with more holes than anyone can count. It is dumb, mindless, and actually pretty entertaining. At this point the only people seeing these movies are fans of the franchise, and if you’re not a fan there really is not much to see here. I will say that the story in this film is at least more interesting than the last couple of entrees even if it is filled with more holes. Retribution manages to capture the feel of an arcade game with the various characters moving from level to level with each having their own theme to it. While it is still a farcry from the Resident Evil games, it still manages to realize it’s a video game movie. The story for the movie is absolutely terrible even by B-movie standards, but it is hard to be too critical of a movie that is not even striving to tell a real story. Resident Evil is without a doubt style over substance.
Much like the story, the characters in this movie are a joke. Aside from some attempts to do some different things with Alice, pretty much every other character in the movie is solely there for plot purposes or fan service. All of the clones are completely unnecessary. Michelle Rodriguez was the second name listed in the opening credits yet her character is completely pointless. It could have been any other characters and it wouldn’t have changes the dynamics of the movie at all This is so blatant that there are characters such as Barry and One who literally do nothing but shoot and maybe get a couple of one liners. These characters are placed in the movie for fan service but are completely pointless and unnecessary. The inclusion of Leon may have excited some fans, but ultimately he was pointless. Aside from the poor use of characters, the movie very poorly writes for the characters which leads to all of these characters feeling horribly wooden and artificial. Leon is the absolute worst with almost every one of his lines being laughable. Sienna Guillory who plays Jill as the villain in this movie has to be a sure-fire Razzie contender this year as she is so horrible I could not decide whether I should cringe or laugh. Again, it is very difficult to judge this film to harshly because this movie really isn’t going for good characters or performances, but in comparison to the original that had characters that felt necessary and were somewhat memorable this movie falls incredibly short.
Paul W.S. Anderson had a couple of solid movies in the likes of Event Horizon and maybe the first Mortal Kombat, but overall he’s delivered some entertaining if terrible movies. The first movie was fine, but as I’ve stated they have gotten increasingly stylized and ridiculous with each passing movie that has been released in the series. Anderson unapologetically lays on the dumb, ridiculous, and over the top style in this Resident Evil movie. There is enough slow-mo to give Zack Snyder a run for his money with entire action sequences being completely in slow-mo for no particular reason other than that it may have looked cool in the editor’s room. Anderson must have the tension span and the hyperactive mind of a thirteen year old because that is who his style seems to be geared toward despite the fact that there is enough blood and language to make this movie an R rated film. This style is bland, dumb, and it isn’t sorry for being that way. I guess I can say that it least it was sort of fun to look at.
At the end of the day whether or not you are going to like Resident Evil Retribution is going to come down to whether or not you are a fan of these movies no matter how blatantly bad and stupid they may get. As a fan of the Resident Evil franchise I can say that I was satisfied and I enjoyed the cheap entertainment that this movie offered. As a critique I thought this was a giant steaming pile of garbage and I couldn’t think of anyone but Resident Evil fans to recommend this movie to. If you haven’t enjoyed any of the other movies this movie is certainly not going to change your mind, but for fans who are used to letting their suspension of belief slide for these movies it is worth at least a rental is not a matinee. Fans will certainly find some fun to be had.
The story of Retribution is even sillier and more over the top than the past entrees. I found it to be more enjoyable than the last two entrees, but ultimately the movie had enough holes in the plot to support a military grade mine field.
Milla Jovovich does a serviceable job with Alice by giving her a little bit of humanity that has been missing in recent films, but ultimately nearly every character in this movie is to service a plot point. Characters like Leon, Barry, Rain, One, and to some degree Ada are completely wasted and are there simply to point, shoot, and make fans happy. The writing for the characters is terrible and there are some performances in this movie that are more than likely looking at Razzie nominations. There are times when bad writing meets the bad acting for some truly cringe worthy moments that even make the Sy-Fy channel look decent.
The direction of the movie while deeply flawed may be the most redeeming part of the film as it does provide for some incredibly fun if shallow action sequences. There are musical cues that don’t belong, laughably long slow-mo sequences, and physics that make the Matrix look believable. Luckily the movie is very unapologetic about its style which I’ll give props to Anderson. Anderson isn’t trying to make this movie anything other what it actually is.
Overall Effectiveness of the Film: 3.0
Resident Evil Retribution is a movie that will certainly be good enough for fans such as myself, but it hardly does anything for those who don’t already enjoy this series. This movie is stylized entertainment for sure, but for those who haven’t watched the other films are going to have an incredibly hard time buying some of the absurd plot conventions the movie is trying to sell its audience. This is an entertaining movie for fans, but ultimately it isn’t anything remotely special.
Overall Score: 3.0