Resident Evil: Retribution (2012)
Directed by Paul W.S. Anderson
Distributed by Screen Gems
If you've never considered yourself a fan of the Resident Evil series, writer/director Paul W.S. Anderson's latest efforts on Retribution will likely do very little to sway you to become one.
But for those of you out there who dig on these overblown popcorn flicks, the fifth installment in the Resident Evil franchise is certainly one of the better chapters in this ongoing story, with Anderson delivering an at times stunning but ultimately mindless installment that feels like a precursor to what looks to be the ultimate showdown between Alice (Milla Jovovich) and the nefarious Umbrella Corporation as we finally get some answers (and more questions as well).
Retribution looks great, especially in 3D. Milla is in top form (finally getting to have a little fun with her character), the action sequences have never been bigger in scope and for those of you who wanted more zombies - you get them here tenfold. Unfortunately the movie is plagued by the same problems that have plagued the Resident Evil series from the very beginning - paper-thin storylines and some ridiculously cheesy overacting by a few supporting players.
Resident Evil: Retribution picks up right where Afterlife left off with all hell ready to break loose on the mysterious ship called Arcadia; but rather than just go right into things, Anderson changes it up a bit by giving us an opening entirely in reverse, which feels a bit indulgent but makes for some pretty stellar eye candy on the big screen. We find out how Alice fares against Umbrella and the now blonde (and evil) Jill Valentine (Sienna Guillory), who has been turned into a mindless killing machine by the evil corporation at large.
As it turns out, things are definitely not what they seem in Alice's world with many of the characters fans had said good-bye to in previous movies (Michelle Rodriguez, Oded Fehr, Boris Kodjoe, the aforementioned Guillory and the divinely smarmy Shawn Roberts as Albert Wesker) reappearing. Sometimes in both good and/or bad variations and that adds for a few fun bait-and-switch moments for the RE fans.
Alice also crosses paths with several new characters in Retribution, including Johann Urb as Leon Kennedy (looking pretty dead-on in comparison to his video game counterpart), Kevin Durand as Barry Burton, Aryana Engineer as a youngster named Becky who may or may not have ties to our heroine and longtime fan favorite Ada Wong (Li BingBing).
Of course, it's not just friendly faces that Alice encounters as Anderson delivers on amping up the undead by featuring hordes upon hordes of flesh-eating zombies and big baddies galore in Retribution. Some of the flick's best action sequences happen whenever the Las Plagas zombies show up on their motorbikes(!) toting machine guns, making for an entirely different kind of undead foe for Alice and friends to have to contend with here. Alice and Ada also have a really fun showdown together when a few of the oversized AxeMan characters show up, dragging their equally oversized axes down the glistening streets of Tokyo. Who is making those things anyway? Is there a factory?
While Anderson may not be a director known for providing audiences with a whole lot of character development or deep material whenever he's telling a story, what he is great at is creating immersive and visually striking worlds, with Retribution being almost his best-looking work to date, second only to what he managed to create back in 1997 on Event Horizon (which has held up despite its age). He uses 3D to his advantage in Resident Evil: Retribution, allowing for some pretty wicked cool action sequences to unfurl, and both the gun-heavy and hand-to-hand combat fight scenes are top-notch.
Where the film falters (as expected) is the fact that while Anderson has a keen eye for explosions, ass-kicking fight scenes and keeping the zombie mayhem tuned up to 11, he's just never been great with actors or writing compelling character arcs; and the song remains the same in Resident Evil: Retribution.
Jovovich seems comfortable and assured as Alice once again and even gets to deliver a few one-liners along the way. Returning cast members Rodriguez, Kodjoe and Fehr, as well as newcomers Urb and Durand, are all pretty entertaining in Retribution and clearly had fun making this fifth installment, but as usual, this Resident Evil also suffers from quite a few wooden performances (particularly Guillory - seriously, is she a robot?) and some cringe-inducing ADR that almost derails the awesomeness of seeing Ada Wong on the big screen (BingBing, a popular actress in China, delivers her first ever English-speaking role here). I understand that the actress playing Ada didn't speak the strongest English, but what they did to her voice in ADR seriously sounds like something out of a 60's soap opera. Truly awful- someone should be fired for thinking that was acceptable.
That all being said, though, the Resident Evil movies are made for a very specific fan base; yes, fans know these movies are silly and empty-headed, but we don't care. Sure, I love my thought-provoking and visceral horror movies just as much as the next person, but there's also something to be said for going to the movies for 90 minutes and getting lost in the spectacle and badass action sequences that these films are known for. Oh, and don't forget the zombies. Lots and lots and lots of zombies.
If you consider yourself a Resident Evil fan, Retribution is absolutely worth spending your hard-earned dollar on to see it on the big screen (I'd even recommend the 3D upcharge here) as it is definitely the movie fans have been waiting for since Afterlife left us hanging back in 2010. For those of you who aren't a fan of Anderson or the previous movies, Resident Evil: Retribution really won't do much except give you something new to complain about.
3 out of 5
2 out of 5