Resident Evil: Retribution – Revenge Of The Franchise

I really need to stop going to see these movies. The Resident Evil series has had its ups and downs (all things are relative- the ups aren’t Citizen Kane), but entry number 5 in the series is undeniably a dip (and not in the good way, it’s not tasty salsa). For those of you just joining us, the evil Umbrella Corporation does not in fact make umbrellas. They make biological weapons and when a virus escapes (I’m free! Free at last!) it infects mankind, turning large swathes of the population into zombies and creating an ever growing array of hideous beasties. Leading the battle against both the Umbrella Corporation and the zombies is Alice (Milla Jovovich), and a rotating cast of supporting characters as forgettable as they are expendable.

Retribution gets off to a spirited start, picking up where the last film ended while running the opening scene in reverse. It doesn’t serve any great plot purpose but it looks cool – the guiding principal that steers the entire movie franchise. Then there is a sequence removed from the superheroics in which Alice is a suburban housewife trying to protect her daughter Becky (Aryana Engineer) from the sudden onslaught of flesh-hungry undead. This is far and away the most effective sequence in the entire film series to date and the one in which director and writer Paul W.S. Anderson fully embraces the tropes of the zombie genre. Most of the time, the Resident Evil movies are light on horror, heavy on superhero-style action and eye candy, but the suburban zombie attack is a reminder of what makes a horror series like The Walking Dead so effective. The human characters seem very fragile, terribly vulnerable and desperate in the face of the zombies. For one glorious moment, Resident Evil: Retribution is actually rather good.

This is my damn swing and if I say you can’t have a turn on it, just accept that no means no before someone gets hurt.

But then it’s back to business as usual. Alice returns to her butt-kicking persona complete with fetish-tastic catsuit. The rest of the film never manages to recapture the intensity of the suburban sequence and instead offers a collection of over-long action scenes that prove the law of diminishing returns. There is an extended battle between a group of good guys and a squad of Russian Red Army zombies. The sequence is an unfocused mess with no momentum and no drama, just lots of loud noises and things exploding. The characters in this scene are indistinguishable from one another. I am fairly sure one of them was called Sergei. But I don’t know which one. I think he died.

The previous film, Resident Evil: Afterlife, borrowed shamelessly from The Matrix. Now Retribution fearlessly lifts ideas wholesale from James Cameron’s Aliens as Alice finds a young girl to protect in the Umbrella Corporation’s underground facility. Before you can say, ‘Get away from her, you bitch!’  it’s bonding time for surrogate mother and child and déjà vu time for the audience. It’s such a brazen example of cinematic pilfering that it could be audacious if it wasn’t so unimaginative.

As a side note, it looks like the sign language for ‘I love you’ is the same as the heavy metal gesture for ‘This totally rocks!’

Jill Valentine in Resident Evil: Retribution

For the busy girl about town, combine the impracticality of having nowhere to put your car keys with a design that makes it almost impossible to go to the toilet in under 30 minutes

The outfits are a fanboy’s wet dream. The male characters all wear ordinary clothes or military gear. The girls all wear catsuits or evening gowns. But not classy evening gowns. The kind a stripper might wear at the start of her routine. Ada Wong, played by Li Bing Bing, sports a red dress with a split all the way up to her thigh. Now remember, this girl lives in a world overrun by zombies. Everyone wants to look their best, but this is ridiculous. Director Anderson pays no attention at all to the idea of world building, of constructing a believable environment or backdrop for his story. Otherwise Ada Wong might have thought combat trousers and a sturdy pair of boots better suited for fighting zombies that her sexy red dress and heels. Jill Valentine, played by Sienna Guillory, wears a figure-hugging catsuit with a neckline best described as more plummeting than merely plunging. Oddly enough, none of the other members of her team wears anything remotely similar.

But take heart, Resident Evil fans – Shawn Roberts returns as Albert Wesker and he still can’t act. He even seems to struggle with walking on camera. He looks so stiff it’s like he has a really bad back and is afraid to make any sudden movements. I find myself looking forward to his appearances, he’s that special. If you ever find yourself faced with a challenge that you don’t think you can overcome, just remember that Shawn Roberts has an acting career. If he can manage that, there is nothing you can’t do. Thank you, Shawn. You are an inspiration to all.

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