Review: Resident Evil – Retribution

Milla Jovovich - Resident Evil: Retribution

The long-running series is given a jolt in this stylish and sexy new outing that takes us back to the origins of the species.

Resident Evil: Retribution (2012)

Resident Evil: Retribution poster

Director: Paul W.S. Anderson

WritersPaul W.S. Anderson

Runtime: 96 minutes

StarringMilla Jovovich, Michelle Rodriguez, Kevin DurandSienna GuilloryShawn RobertsAryana EngineerJohann UrbOded FehrLi Bingbing

Distributor: Sony

CountryUS, Canada, Germany

Rating (?): Worth a Look (★★★)

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The Resident Evil films may have been inconsistent in their quality, but despite critical lashings they have remained the most popular and prolific set of video game based films in history. The series follows Alice (Milla Jovovich), once an operative of the nefarious Umbrella Corporation, a bioengineering pharmaceutical company that is responsible for unleashing the T-virus and turning most of the world’s population into zombies. Having fought off the hordes of darkness through four films, Alice is now the company’s ultimate adversary, destroying their plan for evil at every turn. With the fifth and perhaps penultimate entry Resident Evil: Retribution, director Paul W.S. Anderson returns to remind us why this series has been so enduring.

Picking up immediately after the events of Resident Evil: Afterlife, Alice fights for survival as troops attack the Arcadia freighter filled with the last survivors. Knocked unconscious, Alice seemingly awakes in suburbia with no knowledge of her past exploits. However, this proves to be an illusion, as Alice has been captured by Umbrella. Soon she must team-up with an unlikely ally and some old friends to once again defeat the machinations of the evildoers and their undead minions in environments from around the world..

Anderson begins this fifth outing, his third as director, with a stylish and original vision of the freighter fight played out in reverse. The clever trick delays our satisfaction long enough to keep the audience off-balance, but it also means we sit through the whole thing again only minutes later flipped the right way around. Anderson is a filmmaker that has typically put style ahead of substance, and with the heavy narrative lifting already done in the previous entries, Resident Evil: Retribution is content to simply let it all hang out in a fairly straightforward fashion. Indeed, despite the time-loopy opening, this latest outing plays out in the linear fashion of level-based video games. Alice and her team make their way through a series of artificially created ‘platforms’ based on American suburbia, New York, Tokyo and Moscow, before hitting the ‘boss’ level for a series of final fights. Yet this gives the film a focus that its immediate predecessor sorely lacked, and allows for some impressive set-pieces on the way.

The plot is a generous second to the action at any rate, and if you haven’t been following the series to date then some of the extraneous details may be head-scratchers. Which leaves the uninitiated with two options: go and catch up or just go with it, the latter being a decent option for series devotees as well. Indeed, this film throws in some decent helpings of fanservice, pulling in characters from the previous films and the video games. Most anticipated have been Leon S. Kennedy (Johann Urb) and Ada Wong (Li Bingbing), but there’s also the return of Rain Ocampo (Michelle Rodriguez) from the first film in dual roles. The film also introduces a ‘daughter’ character for Alice, which further gives the action purpose, even if it means scenes and plot devices are lifted wholesale from James Cameron’s Aliens (1986).

There is something almost comforting about the existence of the Resident Evil series, gracing our screens every two or three years with their familiar vibes. It is hardly a spoiler to reveal that Resident Evil: Retribution by no means wraps up the series, setting the scene for what Anderson has promised to be an ultimate finale to the saga. While the ending might seem like a cop-out, this time around it doesn’t feel like as much of a cheap shot, as Alice and the whole saga has actually moved forward in a rapid fashion in this action epic. It may not be smart, or even original, but it’s a stylish and sexy action flick that doesn’t come burdened with the pretensions of its more bloated contemporaries. Bring on the next one!

Resident Evil: Retribution was released in Australia on 13 September 2012 from Sony.