Alice: Milla Jovovich
James Washington: Christopher Kirby
Rain: Michelle Rodriguez
One: Collin Salmon
Screen Gems Presents A Film Directed By: Paul W.S.Anderson
Written By: Pail W.S. Anderson
Reviewing a new film in the RESIDENT EVIL franchise is a bit on the pointless side. RESIDENT EVIL: RETRIBUTION, the fifth film in the video game-based zombie action franchise, is unlikely to be seen by anyone who didn’t watch at least half of the first four films, and those that are excited about it are going to see it no matter what some internet loudmouth has to say. The question is limited to “Is this film so awful that it will actually kill the franchise, or surprisingly good so that non-RESIDENT EVIL fans would actually be interested in it?” With Paul W.S. Anderson, master of the action-packed genre films that make for great trailers but “meh” features, back at the helm, the answer was likely to be “no” in both cases.
Milla Jovovich returns as the perpetually tightly-clothed Alice, and the film quickly disposes of the climax of RESIDENT EVIL: AFTERLIFE to bring her back into the arms of the generically ominous Umbrella Corporation in the guise of a giant underground facility in Russia. It’s minimally staffed, though much of the giant facility is set up to replicate parts of major cities (New York, Moscow, Tokyo, and the vague “Suburbia”) using clones of former employees in order to simulate zombie attacks. Alice is soon rescued by a butt-kicking martial artist (Bingbing Li, of Tsui Hark’s DETECTIVE DEE AND THE MYSTERY OF THE PHANTOM FLAME, in her first English-language film) and the pair try to make their way through the contaminated areas in an effort to meet up with a band of mercenaries that work for the conspicuously alive Albert Wexler, the former head of Umbrella.
Introducing the idea of clones of Umbrella staff allows several characters from other films to come back, including the cubed-in-the-first-film One (Colin Salmon) and badass Rain (Michelle Rodriguez), in several cases in multiple roles, as the clones have been implanted with different personalities in order to better create the urban environments. However, this just means that we get a “good” and a “bad” version of a few characters – that don’t even interact with each other! Other than some vague facial reactions from Alice, the whole idea of cloning dead characters is essentially dismissed, resulting in possibly the only action movie on record that introduces several “good against evil” twin characters without having a single combat sequence between them.
Missed opportunities aside, RETRIBUTION is still an entertaining ride, in that it’s got lots of gunfights and explosions and people leaping from place to place climactically, and it’s edited so quickly that it often feels like a trailer for itself. Strangely, with all of the character re-introductions, betrayals and gunfire between the good guys and the Umbrella clones, there’s not all that much in the way of zombies – vast chunks of the movie feature no attacks from the contaminated at all, concentrating on trading bullets between the human/clone characters rather than zombie battles. A pair of Axemen show up unintroduced to please fans of the video game franchise, and there are a scattering of attacks by the tentacle-mouthed zombies, but those looking for a constant onslaught of the undead should probably stick to the earlier films.
The expense of having such a quick pace, of course, is the total lack of character development, so you don’t really end up giving a crap about the fates of anyone on screen, no matter which team they’re on. Alice bonds with a little girl (presumably cloned from her daughter) to bring some emotional content, but this just means we end up with a poor movie’s Newt being dragged around for the running time, occasionally getting captured and having to be rescued even though (a) she’s a clone and (b) it ends up getting non-clones killed. Fortunately, there’s enough random stuff happening in RESIDENT EVIL: RETRIBUTION that, while not inventive, makes for a perfectly watchable waste of time, so you should manage to keep your eyes occupied to a degree that your brain won’t even notice until the credits start to roll.
– Paul Freitag
Paul runs the Pychotronic Netflix page on Facebook and is the weekly author of the Psychotronic Netflix list we publish every week.
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