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Overall Rating

Awesome: 13.04%
Worth A Look30.43%
Average: 26.09%
Pretty Bad: 26.09%
Total Crap: 4.35%

3 reviews, 5 user ratings

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Resident Evil: Retribution
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by William Goss

"This is the REmix"
2 stars

'Resident Evil: Retribution' starts out moving backwards and never really stops.

This fifth film based on the lucrative video game franchise begins with an attack on a cargo ship holding some of humanity’s last survivors playing out in reverse. Sure enough, the Umbrella Corporation -- whose genetic meddling has seen much of Earth’s population decimated by the undead -- is still after Alice (Milla Jovovich), the one gal who’s been infected with their T-Virus and lived to tell the tale, but for a few minutes, we’re allowed to believe that things will be different somehow.

No dice. As writer, director, and husband to Jovovich, Paul W.S. Anderson goes through the requisite series recap, repeats that opening attack in normal fashion, and then introduces a plot specifically engineered for maximum familiarity. See, Alice has a habit of waking up, barely dressed, in any one of seemingly countless Umbrella lairs. This one contains a series of glorified holodecks in which zombie attacks could play out in Times Square, Tokyo, Moscow, or a more generic suburban environment so as to best demonstrate the effectiveness of chemical weapons for potential buyers.

In short, it’s the EPCOT World Showcase of mutations and mayhem.

The fact is, these scenarios serve as a tidy echo of the films, and games, themselves, an easy excuse to recycle previous plots and characters while allowing the illusion of globe-trotting appeal for marketing purposes. (2010’s Afterlife did double the business worldwide of the entry before it.) A decade after the first film was released, the neverending nihilism of Umbrella’s corporate presence now finds itself mirrored by the cynicism and greed on Sony and Anderson’s part to dole out so very much more of the same.

Here’s the laser grid and homicidal artificial intelligence from 1! Jill and Carlos are back from 2! The athlete-turned-leader and hulking, impractical, blade-swinging baddie have returned from 4! Under the guise of fan service, Retribution is burdened with a tedium that the previous entries had only hinted at. Level for level, these flicks have never seemed more like a video game than this one does, padded with easy comedy (what if Michelle Rodriguez’ trigger-happy badass thought herself a proponent of gun control?) and pathos (the Newt subplot from Aliens is lifted wholesale) between bouts of slow-motion gunplay and martial arts.

Anderson (Event Horizon, last year’s The Three Musketeers) has often been little more than a competent hack, putting as pretty a polish on this turd as those which came before. Chases and fight scenes are as cleanly executed as ever, shot relatively well in 3D, if never remotely exciting for all the digital hullabaloo and endless ammo. With so many scenes consisting of mindless zombies chasing after identical clones, it’s hard to know whether one’s describing the action or the audience at this point.

His muse punches and poses as well as ever, although Jovovich is only made to look better when placed alongside the particularly leaden performances of Sienna Guillory (awful even for being brainwashed), Shawn Roberts (little more than a smirk), and newcomer Bingbing Li (almost always spouting exposition). That added emphasis on explaining everything in triplicate is part of what makes Retribution feel especially insulting. Anderson’s newfound need to tell in addition to showing kills the momentum of most any given scene, as a diabolical computer repeats what a character (often Li’s) says after we’ve already been shown on a map precisely where the survivors are heading and what threat they will face.

However, nobody’s really headed anywhere anymore. No matter what, Alice will always find herself pinned down by impossible odds before the screen cuts to black, and in the larger scheme of things, Retribution feels like a calculated effort to stall. There’s little reason why this film couldn’t have kicked off with the cheesy promise of its cliffhanger ending instead of keeping its protagonist locked underground and running around for ninety minutes, rehashing old miseries and other, better movies.

In a strange sense, this is Anderson’s 'Synecdoche, New York,' in which he casts his characters in a smaller version of their own lives and asks them to play through it all over again. More to the point, it’s a reset on a series that no longer knows how to thrill or how to die.

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originally posted: 09/15/12 05:02:11
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User Comments

5/12/13 Happyreader Milla isn´t acting in the movies, she is just being herself. Great review! 1 stars
10/11/12 Pat Noon Ok, I have to admit these movies are a MAJOR guilty pleasure for me and this one was FUN! 5 stars
9/18/12 Frodo Baggins Thank you for this review. I appreciate your mention of Milla Jovovich having fun with it. 5 stars
9/17/12 Ambsor Awesome 5 stars
9/17/12 KingNeutron Enjoyable romp; Milla was awesome, Sienna G was horrible; opening scene was awesome 4 stars
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  14-Sep-2012 (R)
  DVD: 21-Dec-2012


  DVD: 18-Dec-2012

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