The fifth entry into any franchise is never going to be the best in the series, however, in the case of the Resident Evil franchise, the word best is relative. I’ve written about my unexplainable love for this franchise before, and while Retribution is pretty much the same as the others (re: not very good), I still enjoy them for some reason.
Continuing on from Afterlife, Alice (Milla Jovovich) has been captured yet again; she promptly escapes, but not before giving us a to-camera run down of everything that happened in the previous four movies. It literally feels like the intro to a computer game, catching you up on what happened, but it’s also pretty pointless as if you’re watching this fifth entry, you’re likely a fan of the series already. But the story, such as it is, involves Alice being imprisoned in a testing area for the various viruses the Umbrella Corporation, which basically means they have a huge playground in which to release zombies and a lot of different locations for people to kill/get killed in.
Not that story matters in this sort of film. Within minutes, we’re into full on zombie killing mode, with nary an explanation in sight. In fact, this film is structured rather like a video game. The various scenes are structured like video game levels; we have the Tokyo level, the New York level, the Moscow level and the Suburban America level, each with its own end boss. You’d think this would give the filmmakers the chance to do something interesting with all these different locations. They don’t. All it does is provide a new backdrop for yet more zombies to attack, and gives them a poster quote – ‘Evil Goes Global’ – when technically it doesn’t.
As well as that, this fifth film more so than any of the others feels like they’re marking off items on their checklist. You know what’d look cool? A guy with a massive axe. You know what’s cooler? Two guys with massive axes. Why? Just cause, that’s why. Now play some heavy metal music over it, and we’ll crack on to the next scene. What else is cool? Zombies wielding chainsaws. Check. A massive version of a previous monster. Check. Giving each character a hero shot every five minutes. In slow motion. Check. Bringing back dead characters from previous movies (Michelle Rodriguez and Colin Salmon, both returning from part one) and giving them NOTHING TO DO? Big check.
In an attempt to add some emotion to the series, Alice is given a little girl to look after, after her mother (a clone of Alice) has been killed by zombies in one of the simulations. It’s a nice idea but unfortunately all it is is a bad rehash of a much better subplot used in Aliens. And Milla Jovovich, good as she is as an action movie babe, doesn’t have the acting chops to make us believe that she really cares about this child enough to make us care when the girl is put in peril. In fact, throughout this entire film Milla Jovovich looks increasingly bored, as if she herself is tired of acting in these uninspired, by the numbers flicks.
And that’s my main problem with the Resident Evil film series; they have all had a lot of interesting ideas, sumptuous visuals and iconic moments, but those are always pushed to the sidelines in favour of bland zombie carnage. And it’s what brings me back to the series, in the hope that eventually they’ll make a decent one. But as it stands Resident Evil Retribution is a horror film that’s not scary, an action film with boring action, and as brainless a film as you’re going to see this year.
Review by Jonathan Cardwell.