REVIEW: Resident Evil: Retribution [2012]

Score: 5/10 | ★ ★

Rating: R | Runtime: 96 minutes | Release Date: September 14th, 2012 (USA)
Studio: Screen Gems / Sony Pictures Releasing
Director(s): Paul W.S. Anderson
Writer(s): Paul W.S. Anderson

“Congratulations, you’re officially a bad ass”

You would think that by installment five the studio and/or writer/director Paul W.S. Anderson would realize the fans of the Resident Evil franchise are the only ones still buying tickets. The fact Resident Evil: Retribution only made a little over forty million of its sixty-five million dollar budget back should get this fact across. The T-virus zombies aren’t big box office bank anymore—it’s simply been too long since the games or movies were truly relevant. So, why are they still giving us a five-minute recap of the first film to gain footing into Umbrella Corporation’s corrupt world? We’ve stuck with it this far, so I think we remember how the outbreak started. Anyone coming into a fifth film without at least a cursory knowledge of the mythology shouldn’t deserve our time to be wasted to catch up.

If anything, I would have enjoyed a brief refresher on the last film, Afterlife. I guess the fact they didn’t deem more than thirty seconds of recap necessary shows it was more of a throwaway entry than I previously thought. But whether the storyline was integral to Alice’s (Milla Jovovich) evolution or not, Anderson’s return behind the camera was a much needed adrenaline boost after the abysmal desert romp that was Extinction. Bringing the series back to suspenseful claustrophobia with a few characters trying to escape an infected-ravaged city was the right move and I hoped Retribution would continue the trend. What I didn’t expect was how much Anderson crafted the plot on the premise of the game itself, placing Alice into an Umbrella test facility with ‘levels’ and ‘bosses’ to destroy before the next door opens.

This is a pretty inspired move. Beginning with Alice held captive in a holding cell after regaining consciousness from the explosive finale of Afterlife, we’re introduced to her new environment with the sterility of a white-lit room. Disoriented and trapped with the robotic voice of a now villainous Jill Valentine (Sienna Guillory reprising her role from Apocalypse) the only thing besides a piercing aural torture that she can hear, the rather convenient two-minute power outage allowing her escape feels exactly like the start to a new videogame’s adventure. A door opens, she runs from a mesh laser field, and mysteriously finds herself on an abandoned Japanese street instantly populated by infected souls hungry for flesh. A block of storefronts mysteriously opens to reveal another whitewashed hallway and we’ve truly been transported into the game.

And if that aesthetic choice wasn’t enough to get me excited, the slew of familiar faces populating the faux quadrant titled ‘Suburbia’ are also a welcome inclusion. We get Michelle Rodriguez‘s Rain alive and well as a pacifist and Oded Fehr as a businessman named Todd going about their day until the outbreak. But that’s not all as these actors also get to have some fun playing Jill’s and artificial intelligence Red Queen’s grunts with guns looking to mow down Alice and her friends. The clone concept introduced in Extinction wasn’t eradicated completely after all, it was just put on the back burner until the genetic abominations could be utilized as enemies alongside giant brain-headed creatures and shrouded bad asses with massive hammer axes. Alice must therefore simultaneously run from past, present, and future.

Not alone, however, Anderson has delved into the Capcom annals and included a bunch of characters to help Alice seek victory with Ada Wong (Bingbing Li) and a rescue team consisting of Leon S. Kennedy (Johann Urb), Barry Burton (Kevin Durand), and Afterlife‘s Luther West (Boris Kodjoe). Add in victim for heartstring pulls Becky (partially deaf actress Aryana Engineer) and former archnemesis, newly minted ally Wesker (Shawn Roberts) and it appears the franchise may finally be headed to a close in all out war between humans and Umbrella. But while their inclusion and a more zombie-centric mass of carnage is a fun return to the game’s roots, the action-heavy level-to-level progression leaves little room for story. Retribution becomes a fluff piece of graphic violence ultimately excisable from the series without losing anything.

This was an interesting revelation for me because the way it’s set-up feels as though Anderson wanted to re-familiarize us with the world after a lengthy absence. But it’s only been two years. Maybe he’s preparing us for the conclusion and needed this to get all his chickens in a row before the real meat of the resolution begins, but I think he would have been better off combining the format of Retribution and the story of Afterlife into one film. Neither has enough information to standalone in equal success to the first two installments and perhaps they were never meant to be more than the high-octane actioners they are. Bullets fly, blood spills, and Guillory’s exposed cleavage battles Jovovich’s long, athletic legs. I needed more than that, though. I guess my expectations were just too high.

[1] Milla Jovovich stars in Screen Gems’ action horror RESIDENT EVIL RETRIBUTION.
PHOTO BY: Rafy © 2011 Davis Films/Impact Pictures (RE5) Inc. and Constantin Film International GmbH.
[2] Jill Valentine (Sienna Guillory) opens fire on the deck of the Arcadia in Screen Gems’ action thriller RESIDENT EVIL: RETRIBUTION. PHOTO BY: Rafy © 2011 Davis Films/Impact Pictures (RE5) Inc. and Constantin Film International GmbH.
[3] Luther (Boris Kodjoe), Becky (Aryana Engineer), Alice (Milla Jovovich), Rain (Michelle Rodriguez) and Leon (Johann Urb) enter the Soviet Facility in Screen Gems’ action horror RESIDENT EVIL: RETRIBUTION. PHOTO BY: Rafy © 2011 Davis Films/Impact Pictures (RE5) Inc. and Constantin Film International GmbH.

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