Resident Evil: Retribution
Directed by Paul W.S. Anderson. Starring Milla Jovovich, Sienna Guillory, Michelle Rodriguez, Kevin Durand, Shawn Roberts, Colin Salmon, Johann Urb, Boris Kodjoe, Li Bingbing, Aryana Engineer. (2012, R, 95 min.)
REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., Sept. 21, 2012
Nobody goes to a Resident Evil movie expecting a classic but this fifth entry in the series is just plain cruddy. Jovovich is back as Alice, the perpetually black-catsuit-clad heroine/enigma at the heart of the franchise. Years before, the dreaded Umbrella Corporation accidentally unleashed a zombifying plague on the Earth (see: Resident Evil, either the film or the video game for plenty more exposition), and Alice has been struggling both to contain the spread of the virus and kill as many Umbrella henchmen (in ever more spectacular ways) since then. Retribution is more of the same, but I have to admit, there's a certain numb satisfaction in knowing beforehand exactly what you're likely to get. I like to think of the Resident Evil franchise as a warped spin on Tyler Perry's Madea series: Alice is Madea in a world gone mad, and vice versa. But, hey, maybe I'm also just in denial that Anderson's series has been, on average, pretty sucktacular from day one. That said, Milla Jovovich, Anderson's wife, is a mesmerizing dream of over-the-top femme-badassery. Her only rivals in that department are, of course, Kate Beckinsale in the Underworld vamps-vs.-werewolves franchise, and Michelle Rodriguez in anything (including this very film and Resident Evil, Vol. 1).
Jovovich's physicality and chilly mien (she was originally a "project" of the Umbrella Corp.) carry the series from start to … whenever it finishes, which might not be for quite a while yet. There's always been a certain, vaguely feline, otherness to her acting – recall The Fifth Element – and it's all over the place here. What's new? Anderson, who's written all five screenplays, trots out a young waif named Becky (Engineer) who may or may not be Alice's daughter. There's obviously intentional echoes of the Ripley/Newt relationship from James Cameron's Aliens but it's a muted echo at best. Alice gets to globe-trot (sort of) through the Umbrella Corporation's underground network of real-world mock-ups (Tokyo, London, etc.) – shooting, slashing, and gyrating around the evil and the dead like some sort of Krav Maga ballerina of bloodshed. Cinematographer Glen MacPherson (Rambo) shoots the whole of the chaos on a Red Epic camera, which adds a nice surreality to the proceedings, particularly in a flashback to Alice's pre-apocalyptic life as a suburban housewife. All in all, this isn't the best of the series, but if you've come this far, you might as well go the distance.