Resident Evil: Retribution represents Paul W.S. Anderson’s worst tendencies as a filmmaker. Empty, clunky, and ugly, this is Anderson’s most dull picture yet and the weakest installment in an already weak series.
Retribution begins shortly after the events of the previous film, Resident Evil: Afterlife. Alice (Milla Jovovich) is shooting quarters off a shipping boat, standing still while simultaneously dodging countless amounts of bullets, and is finally knocked unconscious. When she wakes up – or when her “clone” awakens – she’s been captured and sits isolated in, of course, a very white room in an underground Umbrella Corporation lair.
Once she escapes that white room, thanks to a traitor from the inside, Alice has to fight off hordes of the same zombies and beasts we’ve seen her battle far too many times before. However, this time all the battles are done within a virtual dome, which makes no difference whatsoever. She wanders through “New York City” to “Moscow,” and despite the changing environments, all the set pieces stay the same.
Then again, nothing is new here. It’s more of the same. Stylistically and structurally, it’s as if Anderson just reshaped moments from the previous films and simply reused them. Even on a basic, popcorn-minded level, there’s no excitement in watching Alice take down a pack of mutated zombies. The slo-mo fighting style is no longer distinct, Alice is already invincible, and, with that leading us to my next point, there are zero stakes involved.
There’s no weight to these battles because the stakes are never clearly laid out, and the rules of this virtual set up are a tad hazy. If these environments are indeed virtual, then how can any real harm come about? How can the cars and buses blow up? Is it the virtual environment messing with their mind, or did some of the henchmen spend an infinite amount of years carrying down cabs, buses, and other such things down to this badly located underground lair? What about the zombies? Are they all clones, like the many Alices we see in the film? If not, then how can they cause harm to Alice and friends?
With all the exposition in the film, it’s bizarre all these questions are left unanswered (or perhaps are too muddled up to understand). Only a handful of lines in Anderson’s script are not exposition. Everyone grimaces through his clunky video game-like dialogue as if they know it’s as bad as it is. Case in point, Johann Urb, playing a member of the team attempting to assist Alice, delivers nearly all his lines in a super serious manner to let the audience know just how serious this all is.
Except none of Resident Evil: Retribution can be taken seriously nor even enjoyed on a visceral or ironic level. The film starts off with a flashback, then a long expository intro chronicling the past films, then some virtual experience, and, after twenty minutes of that zero-momentum introduction, Resident Evil: Retribution continues to halt its wheels for exposition-driven dialogue, inconsequential fight scenes, and a badly repetitive score which thinks this is all much cooler than it really is.
The Upside: Kevin Durand is there?
The Downside: Everything else.
On The Side: There are people out there who like these movies.