The predictable ritual of enduring the Resident Evil film franchise is a critical cross that most film critics have to bear. Think of it as the occupational hazard of the profession. Now in all fairness there are countless filmmakers that milk a movie series regardless of its repetitive, rancid quality. Certainly Len Wiseman immediately comes to mind when squeezing the bitter creative juices out of his Underworld films that pop up systematically like an unwanted zit. Of course one cannot exclude writer-director Paul W.S. Anderson from this conversation as his Resident Evil conveyor belt cranks out the throwaway thrillers at random.
The results are pretty much conclusive: vacuous and contrived action-horror spectacles dripping with mindless video game banality and a harried heroine that impressively twists in a skin tight black latex outfit that would make a salted pretzel envious. In Anderson’s fifth entry of his tired and tedious trademark actioner Resident Evil: Retribution, the empty-headed frivolity is pretty much built on the same old meandering mentality of a butt-kicking apocalyptic chick in a posturing jumpy and jolting action-adventure. Well, at least movie-making recidivists such as Anderson and Wiseman are consistent in the feeble boisterous goods they sell on the big screen.
For the most part, Anderson has always had the stylish eye for his bombastic Resident clunkers as his recycled and revved up expositions look explosively good so that is not the problem per se. Even his other projects, although with mixed reactions, have a manufactured appeal in electrifying presentation. Event Horizon, for instance, was impishly a competent sci-fi horror flick that had genuine atmospheric chills. Anderson duds in The Three Musketeers and Alien vs. Predator were lousy and laborious but still had an intermittent goofy charm.
In revisiting the Resident Evil platform, Retribution’s convolution (courtesy of a spotty plotline) is such that Project Alice (Milla Jovovich reprising her role yet again as the sleek and sassy siren) is back into the fold as the chaos increasingly develops. Courtesy of Alice’s narration, the audience does not miss a beat in terms of being reminded by what occurred in the last RE installment and what is brewing now in this brooding edition.
Through Alice’s verbal account the scenario is such that security has been compromised at the Hive, a genetic research facility affiliated with the Umbrella Corporation. Hence, the serious consequences involve the unleashing of a deadly virus sweeping the human population. Because of this periled incident the stakes are high as the sinister virus is turning victimized individuals into mutant zombies. Thankfully Alice is impervious to the effects of the virus and if anything it makes her superbly resilient in strength and combative capability.
So Alice is ready to do battle with the villainous Umbrella Corporation and its hologram hussy the Red Queen. Naturally, the Umbrella Corporation will not stop the madness as it is content on turning the planet Earth into a hostile haven for the flesh-eating walking dead. First, Alice needs to escape the clutches of their testing facility confines so that she can confront the murderous infection about the stronghold the entire world. The hedonism is expectedly amplified as Alice and her fierce aides (especially with fellow demolition divas Jill Valentine (Sienna Guillory), Rain (Michelle Rodriguez) and Ada Wong (Li Bingbing) joining her cause) slay the troublesome zombies in an epic battle of cockeyed proportions.
The movie manages to create a flashback of the raucous black latex lass Alice in another persona of a suburban blonde-haired wife and mother. Her husband (Oded Fehr) and sweet deaf daughter Becky (Aryana Engineer) are briefly part of Alice’s idyllic “make believe” existence before her reality of slaughtering the pesky zombies and the Umbrella Corporation baddies returns into its rollicking realm.
Sadly, Resident Evil: Retribution shamelessly lifts its fingerprints off of other fare that includes the Alien film series as an instant example. Jovovich’s boisterous babe Alice is clearly inspired by crass kinetic cuties that range from The Avengers’ Emma Peel to no-nonsense Ellen Ripley from the aforementioned Alien. One could even throw in Kill Bill’s Beatrice Kiddo and Tomb Raider’s Lara Croft for good measure.
Visually, Retribution is arresting and crafty with its CGI effects that make the zombies and other unorthodox creatures come to life with absurd purpose. Unfortunately the gimmicky skintight latex outfit, misguided monsters and cutting board carnage cannot uplift Resident Evil: Retribution from its hammy hemorrhaging.
For the indiscriminate video game geeks that are craving another woefully tepid Resident Evil chapter it probably would not be a stretch to see Jovovich’s Alice bashing creepy cretins once again for the sixth time. Can you say déjà vu ten times fast?
Resident Evil: Retribution (Screen Gems)
1 hr. 57 mins.
Starring: Milla Jovovich, Sienne Guillory, Michelle Rodriguez, Li Bingbing, Oded Fehr, Boris Kodjoe, Aryana Engineer, Johann Urb
Directed by: Paul W.S. Anderson
MPAA Rating: R
Genre: Science Fiction/Action & Adventure/Horror
Critic’s Rating: * ½ stars (out of 4 stars).