Paul W.S. Anderson
Milla Jovovich - Alice
Sienna Guillory - Jill Valentine
Michelle Rodriguez - Rain Ocampo
Aryana Engineer - Becky
Johann Urb - Leon S. Kennedy
Kevin Durand - Barry Burton
Li Bingbing - Ada Wong
Oded Fehr - Carlos Olivera
Boris Kodjoe - Luther West
Colin Salmon - James "One" Shade
Shawn Roberts - Albert Wesker
Megan Charpentier/Ave Merson-O'Brian (Voice) - The Red Queen
Genre - Horror/Action/Adventure/Zombies/Video Games
Running Time - 95 Minutes
After losing a battle against Umbrella's forces led by a brainwashed Jill Valentine (Sienna Guillory), Alice (Milla Jovovich) wakes up to a life in regular suburbia with her loving husband, Carlos (Oded Fehr) and her hearing-impaired daughter Becky (Aryana Engineer). Before she can adjust to this life, suburbia is invaded by an army of zombies. When she's attacked by one of them, Alice wakes up again - this time inside of Umbrella's headquarters. She has been held captive and being grilled for information.
As Alice continues to be interrogated, Umbrella suffers a system reload that allows her to escape. She is surprised by who initiated it - main foe Albert Wesker (Shawn Roberts), who tells Alice that the Red Queen (Megan Charpentier/Ave Merson-O'Brian) has taken over Umbrella's operations and plan on finishing the Alice Project. Wesker has his top agent, Ada Wong (Li Bingbing), help Alice escape through Umbrella's environmental simulations to reach the snowy weather of Northern Russia. Luckily the two have help, as a strike team is taking care of obstacles [in the form of clones of Alice's previous allies] on the other side of Umbrella.
I wanted to write this review a couple of days ago, but plans had fallen through and wasn't able to watch RESIDENT EVIL: RETRIBUTION until yesterday. It's hard to believe that this is the fifth installment of the most popular franchise based on a series of video games within ten years. The series has never been a critical favorite, but many people see these films as guilty pleasures. I'm not the biggest fan of these films, as I prefer the video games, but I do understand the appeal and don't see these films as the worst movies in the world. I prefer RESIDENT EVIL and RESIDENT EVIL: APOCALYPSE over RESIDENT EVIL: EXTINCTION and RESIDENT EVIL: AFTERLIFE, but each film has their moments.
So what did I think of RESIDENT EVIL: RETRIBUTION?
Eh, it was okayish, I guess. I still have issues with the narrative of these films and how this franchise continues to "build" into each installment. It's been five films and I still haven't seen any evolution with the Alice character. The character goes through so much in each of these films - losing powers, gaining powers, flirting with her male allies, dealing with clones, etc. - yet she never goes anywhere of substance. I know as much about Alice now as I did in the first film. TEN YEARS OF NOTHING! The character can kick ass all she wants, but I still don't feel an emotional connection to her. By the fifth film, I should feel sympathy for her and want her arc to conclude in a satisfying manner. But at this point, I could care less about what happens to her. The only reason I continue to watch is because I've seen all the other films, so I might as well see how it ends - which will most likely happen in the next sequel since this film has already made its budget back. When the main character is still a complete mystery and hasn't really grown as a character after five films, my interest diminishes big time.
Speaking of RE: RETRIBUTION's story - what story? It has a plot, sure. But it doesn't really have a story to tell. In fact, this film feels like I'm watching video game cutscenes rather than a logical progression into the conclusion of the franchise. The other films aren't great, but at least they have a story that somewhat goes somewhere. This film doesn't and it's just random scenes thrown together to make a 95-minute movie. I like the idea of having Alice fight in different locations, changing it up every 20 minutes and keeping things from becoming totally dull. It feels like a video game, where the main character must battle through different levels until they reach the final boss battle. That's a great concept and I think it actually helps RE: RETRIBUTION more than it hurts it. But there should be character arcs that enhance this experience. It's fine when you're controlling the game, but it feels disconnected just sitting there and being a spectator. I want to play this, not watch it.
None of the characters, besides Alice, have any sort of substantial character arcs. Chris and Claire Redfield, along with K-Mart, are nowhere to be seen [at least they get a mention]. New characters, like Leon Kennedy, Ada Wong, and Barry Burton are introduced but not given enough time to have their characters fleshed out. They can shoot and kick ass, but that doesn't mean I should give a damn about them. Albert Wesker is a bad ass, but nothing is really done with him. Luther West is a blank state, although he likes Alice. Jill Valentine doesn't get much to do. Neither does Carlos or One. Rain gets to do more, but I found her "good" side more interesting than her usual bitchy side. However, Alice gets to be a "mother" to Becky - sort of like how Ellen Ripley was a "mother" to Newt in ALIENS. While it's not written in any spectacular way, at least it fleshes out Alice a bit and makes her more human. It's a start at least, but one I feel is a bit too late by this point. I think more scenes between the two would have helped this subplot, but it's the best written part of the film so I won't complain too much about it.
What I did like was the visual presentation. The 3D was a bit better than it was in RE: AFTERLIFE. We get the usual crap thrown at the screen, but the environment was also given some depth through the gimmick. Everything looked like it jumped out of the screen, which was nice.
I loved the first act of the film. The opening credits were very cool, with things leading up to Alice waking up in a domestic world shown backwards in slow motion to a great musical score. It was probably the best opening for any RESIDENT EVIL film and it glued me in right away. I didn't mind the montage of Alice discussing what had happened in the previous four films, for new viewers or for those who needed to catch up. I found it sad it could be told within five minutes, but I should have expected that at this point in the franchise. Once that's done, what we saw in slow motion plays back - but forward in normal speed. I really dug that. I also loved the domestic scene in the beginning as well, as it actually felt like a zombie movie for once. It reminded me of the remake of DAWN OF THE DEAD, which isn't a bad flick to rip off. There was genuine tension in this section. Why couldn't the rest of the film have that?
The environments of New York City, Tokyo, Russia, and Suburban Raccoon City were interesting and looked great. I thought the Russian set piece was the best one, with the cool looking zombies [great make up job] and the quick paced action. A pretty cool car chase as well. I dug that.
The fight scenes still had that annoying slow motion crap in them, but there was less of it. The action scenes were the same old stuff we've seen in previous installments, but they were obviously the highlights of this sequel. Too bad they become repetitive by the final act, even though the final battle was pretty cool somewhat. Paul W.S. Anderson did a better job directing the film than he did the script, so I'll give them that.
I won't even mention the acting because no one really stood out. Some actors were decent. Some were really stilted and wooden. Milla Jovovich can do these films in her sleep and still looks good doing it. And Michelle Rodriguez was pretty good as both Rain characters. She seemed to be really enjoying herself, which was great to see.