Outrageous nonstop action and genuinely striking visuals collide with cheap green-screen silliness in the fifth Resident Evil film. By far the most kinetic of the franchise, Retribution is a gung-ho gob of confusing B-movie gusto that, when it’s not pummeling audiences into hysterics with its so-bad-they’re-good fights, manages to surprise with moments of inspired psychedelica that would make fans of Beyond the Black Rainbow proud. In no way does the film invite new fans to climb onboard its wild ride, but that’s the charming thing about Paul W.S. Anderson’s series -- there’s no looking back and no stopping the train…it’s all reload, rehash, and rejoice.
Milla Jovovich returns as Alice, the series’ heroine, who in the past has had superpowers and fought alongside her clones against the evil Umbrella Corporation, which sold biological weapons to the highest bidders around the globe without regard for the apocalyptic ramifications. At the start of the film, Alice finds herself within the heart of the Umbrella base, where its evil supercomputer brain, the Red Queen, continues to run massive virtual simulations of the outbreaks that it started (best not to ask why). To escape to the real world, Alice must battle her way through pseudo-video-game levels that take her through key moments from the previous films as she encounters clones of fallen team members, as well as zombies, monsters, and undead army men on dirt bikes (sometimes on fire) sporting missile launchers. Yep, Retribution is definitely a Resident Evil movie alright.
You know you’re a connoisseur of the Paul W.S. Anderson aesthetic when the endless Matrix homages don’t faze you, nor does the blatant poor man’s Aliens rehash in Retribution’s third act. The guy is a bootleg P.T. Barnum for our era -- he’s utterly shameless, yet has a knack for delivering big-top entertainment on a B-grade budget (something that his utterly bland contemporary, Len Wiseman, cannot claim). While no one will be surprised at the endless shots of people running away from explosions and characters throwing weapons up in the air that they then strategically catch at just the right moment, the ace in the hole of this sequel is a rich visual palette that only draws moviegoers in more with its use of 3D. The Resident Evil films are not everyone’s bag, although they seem to be evolving into their own brand of hyper-stylized cheese, made more extreme with each outing. They might not make a lick of sense, but if you can accept quarters being blasted out of a shotgun, then you are well on your way to cozying up to the wildness that Retribution has to offer. leave a comment --Jeremy Wheeler