Sunday, September 16, 2012


The fifth installment of the “Resident Evil” franchise “Resident Evil: Retribution” (*** out of ****) gives new meaning to the old saying: "A woman's work is never done."  Actress Milla Jovovich cavorts in her trademark, skin-tight, black outfit, wields weapons of every description which rarely run out of bullets, and performs more hyperactive gravity-defying stunts in some exotic new locales.  Indeed, this improbable science fiction fantasy series about an extremely evil corporation gone amuck should have run out of steam several sequels ago.  Nevertheless, writer and director Paul W.S. Anderson knows how to keep things exciting, and “Resident Evil: Retribution” represents another apex in the world of the villainous Umbrella Corporation versus Alice.  Basically, despite its tie-in with the Capcom survivalist video game, the “Resident Evil” movies are about Alice in zombie land versus some seriously mutated zombies along with some other scary villains.  This time around Anderson addresses the usual problem that confounds any film franchise which has endured as long as the “Resident Evil” epics.  Remember, the first “Resident Evil” appeared ten years ago!  If you haven’t seen the original film or the previous installment, how would you know what is happening?  Anderson’s solution is simplicity itself.  He presents us with an inordinate amount of back story during this nimble R-rated actioneer’s first quarter hour.  “Resident Evil: Retribution” resumes the action where “Resident Evil: Afterlife” concluded.  This gives Anderson that opportunity to hit ‘replay’ and we are treated to the last scene from the previous movie “Resident Evil: Afterlife” shown in reverse as well as forward.  As repetitive as this may seem, the scene aboard the Umbrella Corporation's Arcadia freighter where Alice and company are having the firefight of the century with hundreds of evil Umbrella helicopters is worth a rewind or two.   Those helicopters look pretty sinister, too.

After the bullet-riddled battle on the supertanker from “Resident Evil: Afterlife,”  Anderson presents an informative  recap of the entire franchise with Alice narrating her role in the saga.  Anybody who either missed or shunned earlier “Resident Evil” entries will know what their bearings are when “Retribution” unfolds its own narrative.  The chief villains in this entry are the Red Queen as well as Alice’s former compatriot Jill Valentine (Sienna Guillory) who sports a red scarab on her chest.  The Red Queen controls her through the scarab.   As the action opens, we find our indestructible heroine living a perfectly normal existence with a handsome hubby Carlos (Oded Fehr of “Resident Evil: Apocalypse” and “Extinction”) and their hearing impaired daughter Becky (Aryana Engineer of “Orphan”) in Raccoon City.  No sooner have we gotten used to this picture of domestic bliss than zombies burst out of nowhere and chaos rules.  What comes as an even greater surprise is that during her flight from these ravenous undead, Alice encounters her old friend Rain (Michelle Rodriguez of “The Fast and the Furious”) who picks up both Alice and Becky before the fleet-footing zombies can chomp her.   Unfortunately, Alice runs smack into husband who is now a zombie.  

Afterward, Alice awakens in an Umbrella Corporation interrogation room. She finds herself dressed much the same way she was at the end of the original “Resident Evil.”  Alice’s nemesis Jill wants Alice to reveal who she is working for.  Meantime, Alice wants Jill to remember that she once fought alongside her before the Red Queen gained mastery over her.  Just when the Umbrella baddies think that they have Alice cornered, somebody hacks into their system and gives Alice the opportunity to escape.  The Red Queen is an obnoxious little brat with a British accent who keeps reminding Alice that she will have her killed.  Meantime, the resistance forces campaigning against the Umbrella Corporation have to blast their way into a former Soviet submarine base where the Umbrella Corporation has constructed sophisticated mock-ups of Tokyo,  Moscow, Berlin, and New York City.  The only adversaries AWOL from this “Resident Evil” are the undead Dobermans.  At the same time, Anderson has brought back a giant galloping ogre beast along with two tall guys with gigantic mallets that look like meat tenderizers. 

The interesting thing about this “Resident Evil” entry is that Anderson never allows us to lose sight of the plot.  Good movies are like a car with bright headlights penetrating the murk on a dark road.  You always see where you are going, and Anderson inserts numerous recaps to keep us abreast of where we are.  Anderson also stages several acrobatic fights that look genuinely exhilarating.  Indeed, Alice rarely runs out of somebody to shoot.  At one point, our heroine actually runs out of bullets, but she resorts to a little battlefield salvage and appropriates some firearms from a fallen comrade who was gulped by a huge, four-legged ogre that also gobbled her daughter.  Alice learns later that the Umbrella Corporation imprinted all of the child’s memories in her mind. Worse, Alice discovers that the Umbrella Corporation has cloned scores of copies of herself.  The only thing that Anderson does that has been done already is the use of x-ray shots as bones are being broken during a fight; this gimmick was used first in the Jet Li thriller “Romeo Must Die.”  Eventually, Alice runs into an old adversary, Albert Wesker (Shawn Roberts), who has some dastardly ideas up his sleeve.  Wesker once commanded the Umbrella Corporation.  He appears here to bring Alice full circle with a revelation near the end that stuns her.

Most 3-D action movies constitute a painful experience.   Comparatively, the 3-D version of “Resident Evil: Retribution” surpasses the flat version.  Apparently, Anderson is the one of the few directors who understands that the best 3-D launches objects, whether an ax or a bullet, at the audience.  Too many contemporary 3-D movies are content to depict action in an environment that emphasizes depth rather than dimension.  Anderson relies on horror movie shocks and endless, noisy firefights to keep the action from flagging. “Resident Evil: Retribution” qualifies as an above-average 3-D fantasy that gives you a reason to wear those infuriating spectacles.  Skillfully staged action scenes, a slam-bang Tomandandy soundtrack, and ingenious production designs as well as settings make “Resident Evil: Retribution” worth watching.  Yes, “Resident Evil: Retribution” leaves things open for a sequel.