Resident Evil: Retribution

Despite the occasional blip, the Resident Evil franchise is as reliable as their increasingly annoying codas that usually close their movies with a massive status quo change that’s almost always undone five minutes into the next film. It was annoying when they first did it in 2002  and it was still annoying when they continued to do it ten years later with the fifth entry in the franchise that happily trades mindless energy in favour of small things like narrative sense, three dimentional characters and having your movie play like it’s not utter bullshit from beginning to end…
That’s right, after a slight, promising shift in quality that marked Paul W.S. Anderson’s return to directing the movies that going to put his and wife Milla Jovovich’s kid through college, Resident Evil: Retribution may in fact be the worst entry of all despite it’s initial premise being probably the most intriguing of the series.

After the ending of Resident Evil: Afterlife is casually undone by one of the only scenes to stoke any interest (an audacious airstrike shot entirely in reverse), some time amnesiac; some time superhero; some time clone, Alice awakes in a suburban neighbourhood to find that she lives an idyllic lifestyle with her child and her husband Carlos Oliveria, a man from Alice’s past who RE fans (the ones that still have functioning brain stems, that is) will recognise from the second and third movie – however, a sudden and frenzied zombie attack cuts this sort and everyone is apparently killed. Waking up a prisoner of the ludicrously evil Umbrella Corporation in a cell designed exactly like its insignia (big on self promotion, is Umbrella), Alice discovers that she’s in a massive facility designed to test real world application of the corporation’s endless stream of genetic horrors thanks to numerous huge replicas of various cities across the world. Escaping with relative ease and pausing only to soak up some of the running time with a fight scene that has all the weight of a balloon caught in an up draft, Alice meets Ada Wong, an associate of Umbrella bigwig Albert Wesker, who claims that The Red Queen, the corporation’s adolescent faced A.I., has run amok and is trying to exterminate all life on earth. Meanwhile, a strike team formed of various characters from the video games and a guy we thought died in the previous movie infiltrates the facility from the opposite end with the hope of joining Alice in the middle and blowing the entire place to hell – however, when reaching the training area that looks like suburbia, Alice makes a disturbing discovery that the test subjects used are all clones of previous Umbrella employees she once knew and they’re being led by a brainwashed Jill Valentine, a former comrade from the second film. As Alice tries to complete her mission she finds herself drawn to a young survivor who had and Alice-clone as her mother – can she get everyone out safe, save her friends and end the reign of The Red Queen once and for all?
Well… no. There’s one more film to go, but you can’t blame me for being dramatic – the film certainly is…

As I’ve undoubtedly mention a few times before, Paul W.S. Anderson is hardly one of the guiding lights of cinema, but even I was taken aback at how passionless Resident Evil: Retribution really is. You’d think after directing three RE movies and scripting all of them that he’d have a noticable soft spot for all the characters he’s created over the years and yet it genuinely feels like he’s never even heard of them as everyone talks to each other with dialogue that sounds like you’ve selected a response on a gamepad.
It’s obvious that the movie was trying to go the Fast & Furious route and bring back all the favourite characters from the franchise while naively forgetting that there are no favorite characters from the Resident Evil films… Ok, yes, it’s legitimately nice to see Michelle Rodriguez back, but instead of having everyone team up to fight a common foe like the last forty five minutes of Avengers: Endgame, the script instead elects to make these characters evil pawns of the Red Queen. This beggars the question: if you think Colin Salmon’s character from the first film is beloved enough to bring him back, why cast him as an overcoat wearing villain?
Olympic levels of long jumping logic aside, you’ll probably end up have just as much enthusiasm for the new characters as you will for the old (i.e. not much) as names like Leon Kennedy and Barry Burton are flung around like they’re something special without exactly explaining why. Yes, I know they’re characters from the games, you probably know they’re characters from the games, but the reverential treatment the film gives them simply translates into lazy script writing as it shoehorns in yet another couple of random badasses for good measure.
Even the monsters get call backs, with a super-sized Licker making a bow and the hulking, bag headed ogres from the previous film getting a second chance in the spotlight, but we actually get no new monsters – unless you count the shock-trooper-esque zombies that look like they stumbled in from a Call Of Duty DLC pack…
All this wouldn’t quite be so damaging if the wall to wall action wasn’t so excruciatingly boring and carried all the tension of watching a kitten sunbathe. Despite the image of women dressed in ridiculously tight rubber fighting to the death (Sienna Guillory in particular looks in danger of getting thrush any minute), I found numerous times I had lost interest in the endless spraying of machine gun fire or the unnecessary gymnastics that the characters insist on doing at the drop of a hat and drifted off into a haze, only to snap back to find myself angrily demanding to know why the action scene was still going on.
Are their any good points? None that make any difference. It’s always nice to see Kevin Durand pop up in something and the costumes an sets are as slick as ever – but Resident Evil: Retribution, with its callback cast and videogame fan pandering had a real chance to do something different with an honestly intriguing setting. However, the film is content to fall back into old, bad habits which is mundane all the more worse when you skip ahead to the final movie to find out none of it fucking mattered as all of the other surviving characters are missing, presumed dead; the daughter plot is just discarded and Alice doesn’t even get her fucking powers back for long, losing them about ten minutes into ” The Final Chapter”.

If the film wasn’t so easy to ignore despite all the clattering, wailing and screaming, it would be massively annoying, but with all the desperate, obnoxious scrambling to get your attention, RE: Retribution instead manages to force you into the same kind of fugue state that affects those kinds of disinterested parents who can block out the sound of their wailing child in a busy restaurant – and any film that can turn me into that, I want no part of…


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