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Resident Evil: Retribution
Written and directed by Paul W.S. Anderson. Starring Milla Jovovich, Michelle Rodriguez, Sienna Guillory, Shawn Roberts, Boris Kodjoe, Kevin Durand, Oded Fehr, Johann Urb, Aryana Engineer, Bingbing Li, Wentworth Miller, Colin Salmon, Jason Isaacs, Amanda Dyar, Mika Nakashima.
The same, and more of it. Resident Evil: Retribution is the fifth film in the series inspired by the Capcom survival horror video games, and third from director Paul W.S. Anderson, who bears the somewhat incredible distinction of being the sole credited writer on all five films. No surprises, right? You get what you pay for here, namely: zombies and other monsters, endless slo-mo gunplay and gun-fu, explosions, splatterific violence, and lots and lots of Milla Jovovich.
And despite all the other distractions that bombard our senses, it’s Jovovich, the director’s wife, who manages to hold our attention; during the film’s most memorable sequence, she’s wearing what appears to be two sheets of A2 paper held together with dental floss. I’ll say this: for all of Anderson’s other failings, he sure knows how to shoot his wife.
Retribution seems to swaps strengths and weaknesses with the previous film, Afterlife: it’s significantly better paced and much more fluid, though less bizarre-arty with a downgrade in 3D filmmaking (Afterlife was, surprisingly, one of the most proficient 3D films I’ve seen after Avatar; here, the extra dimension is never lingered upon and all but forgotten.) Still, this is more or less the same movie as the previous four.
For about twenty minutes, the film has you wondering what’s going on and where this is headed (hey, any element of intrigue in these films is entirely welcome). After picking up literally where the previous film left off during a rather pointless reverse slo-mo opening credits sequence, we see Alice (Jovovich) in a suburban home with husband and daughter (flashback? memory?) before she wakes up in an Umbrella Corp. lab and escapes to find herself in pre-Zombie outbreak downtown Tokyo.
And just as we’re starting to become curious about what’s going on, everything is explained in painful detail with the introduction of Albert Wesker (Shawn Roberts) and Ada Wong (Bingbing Li), who have come to rescue Alice; you see, she’s in a massive underground facility in Northern Russia, where Umbrella has meticulously recreated various settings (Tokyo, New York, suburbia), to test zombie outbreak scenarios with their infinite army of mindless clones.
It’s an appealing setup, and gives the film a chance to travel the world while remaining in a single setting. Unfortunately, that’s the last original idea the movie has story-wise, and we’re not even half an hour in; the rest of the movie is fight-fight-fight as Alice and Ada attempt to break out, a rescue team headed by Leon S. Kennedy (Johann Urb), Luther West (Boris Kodjoe), and Barry Burton (Kevin Durand) attempt to assist them, and Jill Valentine (Sienna Guillory), Rain (Michelle Rodriguez), and an army of monsters stand in their way.
While Resident Evil: Retribution doesn’t offer much story-wise, it does feature some great eye candy (and not just Jovovich); sequences such as an underwater army of zombies swarming over their prey like a school of fish certainly stick in your memory. At the very least, this isn’t entirely bland and unimaginative cinema like, say, the recent Total Recall remake. And the fact that these films take themselves entirely seriously help keep them watchable, unlike Anderson’s previous film, the objectionable Three Musketeers.
Bonus: an unexpectedly good (and varied) original score by tomandandy that plays with a lot of horror soundtrack staples; Bassnectar’s Hexes (ft. Chino Moreno) plays out over the closing credits.
Fans of the video games continue to be un-catered for; the survival horror concept, in which the gamer carefully conserves ammo and avoids unnecessary battle to survive, has been long-forgotten with wave after wave of bullets in the film series. But if you’re undeterred after the previous four movies, you’re unlikely to be disappointed by this one.