Sony // 2012 // 96 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Patrick Naugle // January 2nd, 2013
Evil goes global.
The Resident Evil franchise, like a Timex watch, takes a licking and just keeps ticking. Now five movies in (with a sixth film in the works), this zombie-action hybrid series, based on the bestselling video game series of the same name, may never die. Resident Evil: Retribution (Blu-ray) is ready to take a bite out of your home theater.
When we last saw Alice (Milla Jovovich, returning for a fifth time), she was still battling zombies and the dreaded Umbrella Corporation. After fighting on a large ship in slow motion, Alice awakens inside a suburban house to a seemingly idyllic life...until she and her family are attacked by zombies. Then Alice wakes up in a leather suit with guns and is told by her nemesis that she must help stop the "Red Queen," a computer program in charge of all the diabolical evil behind the Umbrella Corporation. Alice must now escape Umbrella's underground headquarters, which will take her through simulations of Russia, New York, possibly Jupiter, I'm pretty sure Six Flags Great America, and maybe Mel Gibson's house. Using only her wits and...oh, who are we kidding? She uses lots of guns to blow up undead minions and grotesque monsters. Roll credits, with prep work on next sequel.
Although I've seen all four previous movies before watching Resident Evil: Retribution, I couldn't tell you, if my life depended on it, what happened to whom during what scene over the course of which Resident Evil film. This franchise -- much like the now defunct Saw series -- has kept moving forward, even though all the loose ends were tied up a few movies back. Smelling more profits, movie execs decided to untie the loose ends and retie them in a new way with more loose ends, making for a frustratingly confusing moviegoing experience. Characters appear even after they've died. Stories take place in simulated environments, which means one minute we're in London, then Japan, then California. Giant mutant things show up for no reason at all except to show off giant mutant things. Simply put, this franchise has made little sense and doesn't seem interested in starting now.
Lucky for us, Resident Evil: Retribution starts off with an encapsulation of the series, featuring Alice telling viewers what has happened during the last few movies. I'm not sure as it would fill in most of the gaps for new viewers, but at least I had an outline -- however shaky -- of what had come before. In fact, Resident Evil: Retribution resurrects characters from, I dunno, the second and fourth films? Maybe the third and first? It never feels like these characters are actually required for the story as much as dropped in so viewers can say, "Hey, look! It's the guy who played that one guy from that one movie two films back!"
Milla Jovovich returns as Alice, the heroine of this series whose greatest ability is to look like a Victoria's Secret model even while dodging bullets and zombified dogs. Jovovich, a former model, has two facial expressions: pouting and angry, both of which are interchangeable. Returning characters include tough girl Michele Rodriguez (The Fast and the Furious) as Rain Ocampo (who died in the first film), Oded Fehr (The Mummy Returns) as Carlos Olivera (who was last seen in the fourth film), Sienna Guillory (Love Actually) as the double-crossing Jill Valentine (who came in during the second film, disappeared for the third, and reappeared during the fourth), Colin Salmon (Alien vs. Predator) as James "One" Shade (who got spectacularly minced in the first film), and Shawn Roberts (Diary of the Dead) as the fourth film's villain, the sneering Albert Weskler. None of these returning actors make much of an impression. The newer cast members include Johann Urb (1408) as Leon Kennedy (a fan favorite from the video games) and Li Bingbing (The Forbidden Kingdom) as Ada Wong, who sports an American accent so terrible that I can only assume it was dubbed during post-production.
Since any coherent plot or deep character development waves goodbye within the first five minutes, viewers are left with a barrage of action sequences and special effects that are (most of the time) very well-executed, but so what? Without interesting characters or an engaging story, Resident Evil: Retribution is little more than watching a friend play a really expensive-looking video game. Because many of the characters are clones, they seem to come and go at random without rhyme or reason (it also makes it a convenient way to keep the characters on screen even as they're killed multiple times). Most of Resident Evil: Retribution makes little sense; characters are shot at (at close range) and aren't hurt while leaping dozens of feet in the air. The laws of gravity, space, physics, time, science, truth, and reality take a back seat to leather-clad females and beefcake men with perfectly trimmed facial hair.
Paul W.S. Anderson helmed the first film, passed on the next two installments, and then came back to direct Resident Evil: Afterlife and Resident Evil: Retribution. Anderson is able to combine action and special effects proficiently but seems clueless when it comes to engaging the viewer on an intellectual level. Resident Evil: Retribution is all sound and fury, signifying nothing...unless you count nothing as big fat dollar signs.
Resident Evil: Retribution is presented in a fantastic-looking 2.40:1 widescreen transfer in 1080p high definition. The picture quality here is nothing short of stunning; colors jump off the screen while the image retains a crystal clear look (so much so that it betrays the special effects, highlighting their shortcomings at times). No matter what you think about the finished film, the video transfer for Resident Evil: Retribution is exceptional. The soundtrack is presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 Surround in English and French. Much like the video transfer, the audio mix for Resident Evil: Retribution is absolutely fantastic. Directional effects come fast and furious with awesome clarity; this is truly a bombastic, enveloping audio track. Also included on this disc is a Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround mix in Spanish, as well as English, French, and Spanish subtitles.
Extra features include two commentary tracks (the first with director Paul W.S. Anderson, Milla Jovovich, and Boris Kodjoe and the second with Anderson and producer Jeremy Bolt), around five minutes of outtakes, a few deleted and extended scenes, some behind-the-scenes featurettes on the cast and crew ("Drop Un-Dead: The Creatures of 'Retribution'," "Mestro of Evil: Directing 'Resident Evil: Retribution'," "Face of the Fan," "Evolving Alice," "Resident Evil Reunion," "Design and Build: The World of Resident Evil," "Resident Stuntman," "Code: Mika"), a handy database (trust me, you'll need it) with info on the characters ("Project Alice: The Interactive Database"), and some trailers for various video games and Sony films.
To say that Resident Evil: Retribution is derivative is itself derivative. Although the action scenes are well-executed and the special effects generally slick and professional, the movie has zero in the way of personality or heart. I can't say I'm looking forward to whatever Paul W.S. Anderson has in store for fans next.
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Scales of Justice
* 2.40:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (French)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Spanish)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 96 Minutes
Release Year: 2012
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Deleted/Extended Scenes