Resident Evil: Retribution Review
Max's Rating: 6/10
Player Affinity Composite Rating: 4.0/10
(2 reviews total)
Poor Paul W.S. Anderson. with Paul Thomas Anderson releasing The Master
this week, he's been getting the collective "Oh, the other Anderson" look around town. He's no auteur, but when you need a video game adaptation done for profit, call W.S. Anderson — at least until the genre gains some form of credence. His Resident Evil
films are the nearest we're going to get to a proper (a word I use very loosely) adaptation of a revered game series.
Given how much of a mess Resident Evil: Afterlife
was, he'd be hard-pressed to do worse, and mercifully, Retribution
is an improvement. Not a massive step forward, but much more watchable than it's predecessor, and arguably the best of the bunch since the original.
The premise of Retribution
is relatively simple and a touch clever. The marketing has screamed "Evil Goes Global" and to an extent it's true, though it's all fake (you'll see). The T-Virus, designed and created by the Umbrella Corporation, has taken the planet by storm. Unfazed, Umbrella (now ruled by the Red Queen) has developed the Las Plagas virus, a virus with similar regenerative properties to the T-Virus, that allows the undead greater functionality with weaponry and enhanced abilities.
Former Umbrella operative Alice (Milla Jovovich) and her merry band of rogues have fought Umbrella tirelessly, but eventually Alice is captured (again) and sent to Umbrella Prime for interrogation and torture at the hands of former ally Jill Valentine (Sienna Guillory). Untold time passes before Alice is sprung from captivity thanks to the actions of Ada Wong (Li Bingbing), a spy and associate of Albert Wesker (Shawn Roberts), the former head of Umbrella. With both Wong and Wesker claiming their days with Umbrella are over, Alice has no choice but to accept their help in escaping the compound — and the army of undead monsters it holds — before time runs out.
Make no mistake, Retribution
is as much of a mess as its predecessors, at least in so much as the pacing (notably in the first 30 of a 95 minute run time). I don't know why Anderson insists each of the Resident Evil
movies has to have a recap of the past entries; nobody going to the fifth Resident Evil
film needs to be told what happened. If we've stuck it out this long—we know. Despite the rocky pacing in the first chunk of the film, props have to be given to Anderson and film composers tomandandy: they know how to open a Resident Evil
movie in style.
The location is a big throwback to the original film's Hive complex, only 10 times bigger. Less confined than the Hive, Umbrella Prime is an experimental training ground to reenact the earliest of the T-Virus outbreaks around the world, housing full-scale stages of New York, Tokyo and Moscow. This setup is the most "video game" of any Resident Evil
movie and while some may roll their eyes, it can also cause a smile to any gamer in the audience. There are several "levels" Alice must break through, each with their own setup and bosses. It's pure gaming and the fact that Retribution
doesn't shy away or apologize for this makes it less groan-inducing and more a tribute to those that got Anderson, Jovovich and company to this point.
The action is vastly improved since Afterlife
, likely because Retribution
has actual action in it. Gone are Alice's little video diaries and global wanderings. She has one clear path to follow and kills a lot of monsters in the process with a greater sense of style than past films. Being Alice, the laws of physics do not apply to her (the flips she can do!), despite having her "powers" taken away at the start of Afterlife
It's all for our benefit as Anderson gives the audience what they've been asking for: stylized, bombastic action that isn't quite The Matrix
but well above Underworld
. As 3D is heavily featured in the film's marketing, you can expect a lot of the "3D shots" of axes, bullets and blood coming at the screen, but this is hardly a distraction in a 2D showing. Standout sequences include a chase through Moscow (R.I.P. Rolls Royce) and a hallway fight involving a bike chain with one big-ass lock.
You're not going to a Resident Evil
movie for the acting, but suffice to say it is especially atrocious this time around. Seriously. Anderson is not an actor's director. The line readings are just that — line readings without emotional reactions, timbre or believability. One exchange between Leon S. Kennedy (Johann Urb) and Alice is laughably bad; you'll know it when you see it. Again, you don't expect good acting in such a movie, but it would've been great if there were at least an honest effort made. Anderson can stick to directing these films, but it'd be grand if someone else took over script duties.
While the acting isn't great, the addition of the new characters doesn't bog Retribution
down like it did Afterlife
, even if the return of Michelle Rodriguez and Oded Fehr is tacked on for little reason other than to say "the gang's all here." Guillory is particularly flat here, but we'll forgive her as she spends most of the film under mind control. We only forgive because she gets to kick a fair amount of ass in her own style, certainly more than she got to do in Resident Evil: Apocalypse.
Wong, like any new addition to this series, doesn't get much to do but she doesn't just take up space like (absent) Claire and Chris Redfield were known for. Leon (horrible line readings aside) comes across as likeable enough we want him to live(ish). Neither of they or their complicated in-game relationship get a chance to show some form of character until the film's very end, but given the ending of the film we wouldn't count them out just yet. Make no mistake, Retribution
is all about Alice, though it doesn't tell us anything about her we don't already know. She's a badass — that's pretty much it. One new addition to note that drove me crazy is a young girl called Becky. I've said it since Apocalypse
: kids do not belong in Resident Evil
movies. There. I'm moving on now.
Overall, if you're a fan of the films, Retribution
will likely make you happy and stand out as the best entry to come along since the first film, pacing issues and bad acting aside. If you're not a fan, it's a safe bet this one won't win you over. Retribution
wastes little time, delivering on the set-piece action lacking in the series. More importantly, Alice is still badass, and naturally there's an open ending that teases fans that her craziest days might still be ahead of her. Rating: 6/10
Simon thought: "Alright, folks, time to wrap this franchise up. After the tasty B-movie morsels that were the first two instalments in the Resident Evil canon, things hit a limp low with Afterlife and now they’re gone and plunged into the dark, sulphur-enveloped bowels of hell for their fifth installment. Failing even as high camp, Retribution is simply devoid of a script, offers choppily edited action sequences, utterly atrocious acting (even from series regulars who seemed to be having fun with the schlock early on in the series) and stolen material from both other (superior) horror films and early Resident Evil films. Slogs as tough as this are hard to come by. My name is Simon. I don’t care anymore." Rating: 2/10