Resident Evil: Retribution (2012)
By: Stuart Giesel on March 24, 2013 | Comments
Sony | Region A | 2.40:1, 1080p | English DTS-HD MA 5.1 | 96 minutes (Full Specs)
The Movie
Resident Evil: Retribution Cover Art
Credits
Director: Paul W.S. Anderson
Starring: Milla Jovovich, Sienna Guillory, Michelle Rodriguez, Bingbing Li, Aryana Engineer
Screenplay: Paul W.S. Anderson
Country: USA
External Links
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It's another year and you know what that means, another Resident Evil movie! Though they're not released on a yearly basis like the Saw movies had been, and the Paranormal Activity movies seem to be now, they seem to be a constant cash-cow for writer/director Paul W. S. Anderson, star (and Anderson's wife) Milla Jovovich and producing company Screen Gems. And why not? The franchise is critic-proof by this stage, and that's a good thing for its makers, since the Resident Evil films attract quite amazing vitriol from critics and fans of the Resident Evil game series alike. God knows why - the movies are dumb fun and the perfect definition of a guilty pleasure. After all, what's wrong with spending 90 minutes watching an attractive woman dispatch hordes of undead in tight S&M-style outfits? And unlike the Underworld series, which does bear some comparison to the Resident Evil series, the RE films are at least not entirely humourless and bland.

But, yes, this fifth entry in the Resident Evil series does feel like filler in preparation for the sixth, allegedly final film. It does partially build on the framework that's been established since 2000's first film, but feels more like an excuse to have Milla Jovovich jump, kick and blast her way through the undead one more time. Set immediately after the events of the fourth film, Afterlife, the plot soon becomes increasingly more convoluted and ridiculous. This time Alice (Jovovich), survivor from the murderous intentions of the Red Queen from the first film - not really possessing the amazing Matrix-like powers she had in the third and start of the fourth film - is captured and finds herself in an immense underwater testing facility controlled by the ubiquitous Umbrella Corporation. This facility is used as a sandbox for testing the hideous T-virus and its ramifications upon controlled populations. The facility is divided up into areas like a goddamn video game: the heart of Tokyo, suburban America, New York City, then Moscow. What, no Sydney? Turns out that Umbrella has a massive cloning program where they create umpteen copies of people - including clones of Alice and other characters we've seen in other Resident Evil films - to run through the simulations and get infected with the virus or try to fend off those who have been infected. The whole premise seems to be a thin conceit so that we can witness Alice (or, rather, a clone of Alice) in a scene of suburban bliss, and to reintroduce numerous characters from the series who were killed off. Alice finds herself stalked by a squad of Umbrella soldiers led by Jill Valentine (Sienna Guillory) who was last seen in the second film, Resident Evil: Apocalypse. Don't even try to get into the logic of the situation, asking yourself why the hell Umbrella would even bother with such a setup or what the point of all the clones actually is. Logic is quickly dispensed with, as there's enough action and pretty bright lights to distract you.

Yeah, Retribution is light on plot and characterisation. Duh. The film is all about style, even more so compared with Afterlife. Before we get into some heavy exposition, the film starts in reverse, in that we start with the fallout of a battle on a carrier, then wind back to the beginning of the fracas. It's all glorious slow-motion, pretty spectacular stuff and utterly pointless. Love it. Then the film settles into video game mode as Alice ventures through each quadrant, assisted by a squad of marines who mean to blow up the facility and rescue captured spy Ada Wong (Li Bingbing). Alice faces off your bog-standard running zombies, then comes up against a mid-level boss. Remember the creature with the massive hammer from RE4? - well now there's two of them, just because. Annoyingly, she picks up a girl who believes Alice - this particular Alice - is her mother. It's a well-established fact that young kids as sidekicks ruin movies, or at best threaten to derail them - who the hell liked the kids from Jurassic Park? Fortunately, the kid is sidelined before Alice confronts the end-level boss.

It's probably maddening to Resident Evil (the game) fans that Retribution feels so much like a video game movie, yet probably has very little to do with either the characters or the scenario from the games. I don't really know for sure, because I've only played the first game and it struck me as a decent if flawed ripoff of PC classic Alone in the Dark. I do understand why the RE films get the sort of criticism they do from fans of the games, but you'd think by this stage these sort of criticisms would have died down. People should have accepted by this point that this is where the RE movie franchise is going, and that they're making up their own shit and merely using the Resident Evil brand name and characters as a launching pad for more outlandish stuff. Let's face it, nothing's going to change by the time movie number six rolls around - though apparently it will be the last in the series, or at least the last that Anderson and Jovovich will be involved with.

Criticism I've read of the series, and of this film in particular, extends to most aspects of the production, although one thing you probably can't argue is that for its relatively modest $60 million budget there's a lot of impressive shit blowing up on screen. He may be a workmanlike director and a pretty poor screenwriter, but Anderson knows how to stretch a budget. The zombies and other assorted creatures are nicely rendered, the CGI isn't quite as cheap-looking or distracting as in Afterlife, and the sets are all convincingly generated, be they real or illusionary. Really, you can't fault the technical aspects of the film - it's slickly edited, possesses a strong visual style and some nice cinematography, and the fairly stock-standard action-y score keeps the pace rattling along nicely. As far as the acting goes, let's just say that everyone knows their lines and can keep a straight face whilst spitting out decidedly generic dialogue. Jovovich has proven herself as more than just a pretty face with some strong performances in other movies, but Alice is a fairly empty cipher who can kick and jump like a video game character, and her character has scarcely evolved since 2000's Resident Evil. Fortunately she looks mighty fine in her black spandex suit, so you'll get no complaints from me. Most of the characters brought back from the dead in clone form fare no better. Michelle Rodriguez becomes a babysitter for much of the film, although she's at least allowed to come alive in the final fight. Sienna Guillory, who made a fair impression as Jill Valentine in RE2, is completely wooden in this film - perhaps she took the role of a clone too much to heart. Li Bingbing as Ada Wong certainly looks the part - she fights convincingly and is certainly attractive - but the role is underwritten and she doesn't deliver her lines with any emotion.

Bah, acting. Whatever. Action, pyrotechnics and gore is what matters in these films, and Retribution delivers in that department, if a little unimaginatively. If you thought that RE4 was a bit too cartoony in these departments, then you'll probably like Retribution even less. Personally, I found the film functioned better than Afterlife, but isn't as good as the first three films, even though they are no masterpieces themselves. It's hard to get truly invested in the series by this point. It's all wannabe-Matrix and less of the more interesting apocalyptic scenario from Apocalypse and Extinction. I thought after watching Extinction's desert-based setting that the series would move on to even more interesting areas. Alas it seems that the last three films in the Resident Evil series are simply going to be CGI-enhanced action scenes piled on top of CGI-enhanced action scenes as Alice battles her way through Umbrella's endless hierarchy, escalating the carnage until we get to the final end-game boss. I assume the final film will involve Alice kicking her way through a million zombies and a hundred mid and end-level bosses before she dispatches the Red Queen.

A shame. There is some decent action in this one - a corridor fight scene with a chain comes most immediately to mind. It's a beautifully designed fight scene that doesn't rely on an overuse of CGI (though Anderson does love slo-mo-ing his wife -- oo-er). Of course, video game movie logic means we have to escalate things until the audience is spent, regardless of relevance to plot. I will say, though, that instead of a completely overblown final fight, the showdown is competently staged and nicely shot. Of course, the film's final shot blows the film's load, so to speak, suggesting much more immense battles to come. Think The Two Tower's Battle of Helm's Deep, just with more zombies and flying beasties.

Is it pointless to criticise a Resident Evil film? By now you know what you're getting into. Specifically: Milla Jovovich wearing tight clothes and kicking zombie arse. She's hot. The film looks great. The action is mostly good. The story and script are shit. No surprises there. This one's for those of us who love the Resident Evil series despite of its obvious flaws, because every-so-often you just want to turn your brain off and watch some cinematic porridge. And these films deliver.
The Disc
Regardless of what you may think of the film, Sony's Blu-Ray delivers the goods in all departments. Video quality is simply perfect. There is never a moment where the picture is not crystal-clear. Clarity is superb. Colour, balance, detail - amazing. I have absolutely no criticism of this sublime picture quality. The disc's audio is similarly impeccable, with ear-shattering precision and immersion.

As with the other Resident Evil films, or the Blu-Rays at least, the disc is stuffed with enough features to satisfy even the most obsessive fans. There are two Audio Commentaries, one with writer/director Paul W. S. Anderson and stars Milla Jovovich and Boris Kodjoe, and the other with Anderson and producer Jeremy Bolt. The first commentary is a bit light on the details - a lot of it consists of how this or that looks awesome. My preference was the second commentary with Anderson and Bolt, which went into more of the technical aspects behind the film - considering the technical strength of Retribution it mightn't have come as any surprise that this commentary is the stronger one despite some dead moments. There are some Deleted and Extended Scenes - from recollection they seemed to be mostly extended scenes and not especially interesting. Even the extended corridor fight isn't as tightly paced as the one we get in the film, and therefore less effective. The Outtakes aren't especially amusing and, as befits a film with more action than dialogue, mostly consist of clumsy slapstick moments.

There are eight featurettes on the disc covering Anderson's directorial style, the character "development" of Alice throughout the series (really, it's not the character who has evolved so as much as her outfits), one on the franchise's returning characters, the design of the RE sets and effects, a look at the zombies and other critters, a brief look at the film's fight choreography, and two vastly uninteresting featurettes on a fan's visit to the set and an interview with actress Mika Nakashima for some reason.

Another significant feature is Project Alice: The Interactive Database. You can go into this database and view details about the film, the characters, the monsters and look at some brief clips. To be honest I didn't find the database to be a particularly interesting or informative feature.

The disc also includes trailers for other movies and for some game trailers, including one for Resident Evil 6 presumably there to rile fervent RE game fanboys.
The Verdict
Movie Score
Disc Score
Overall Score
Resident Evil: Retribution is more of the same, a lot more. More zombies, more carnage, more Jovovich. Plot and dialogue are pretty terrible, but everything looks amazing, even though the film feels mostly like filler in anticipation of the final episode. For lovers of explosions, blood, babes and cheese you could do a lot worse, and Sony's Blu-Ray release is across-the-board excellent.

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