Though 2002’s Resident Evil pitted humanity against an undead army, another battle was brewing. Despite reanimated corpses craving the flesh of the fearful living, the film’s core conflict raged between a feisty survivor and her former employer. With her memory erased, Alice (Milla Jovovich, The Fifth Element) slayed the teeming throngs to combat the cruel, controlling computer program doing the Umbrella Corporation’s bidding. The zombies that proved pawns in their war may appear in the films that followed–2004’s Resident Evil: Apocalypse, 2007’s Resident Evil: Extinction, 2010’s Resident Evil: Afterlife and now Resident Evil: Retribution–but it is the clash of Alice and Umbrella that drives the five-strong series.
In the first sequel, their skirmish overran their initial confined setting to consume an entire city. Next, the world fell victim to Umbrella’s rapidly spreading virus, with Alice’s links to her nemesis reactivated. The third follow-up saw her quest re-commence in the bowels of her enemy, albeit with their unlikely assistance. After recounting the events of the decade-long franchise in an extended introduction akin to the “previously on” segments that precede episodic television shows, the fifth film presents a new twist on Alice’s adversarial relationship with the all-encompassing corporation intent on global domination and human eradication.
Of course, despite allegiances departing from the expected and further shifting throughout the course of the film’s lagging 95 minutes, the underlying dynamic in Resident Evil: Retribution remains consistent. Trapped within yet another Umbrella facility – this time comprised of simulated Tokyo, New York, Moscow and suburban training grounds–Alice and her ever-changing allies (including The Forbidden Kingdom’s Li Bingbing as Ada Wong, and Orphan’s Aryana Engineer as Alice’s faux daughter) rally against the artificial intelligence of the Red Queen (embodied by Red Riding Hood’s Megan Charpentier and voiced by newcomer Ave Merson-O’Brian), as rescuers (lead by Cosmopolis’ Kevin Durand as Barry Burton) attempt to secure their freedom.
Initiating writer/director Paul W.S. Anderson (The Three Musketeers) may return for his third helming outing (after leaving the second and third films to debutant Alexander Witt and Australia’s Russell Mulcahy respectively), however Resident Evil: Retribution is far from his best series offering. As Alice faces off against and flees from new and familiar friends and foes– Eragon’s Sienna Guillory as Jill Valentine and Battle: Los Angeles’ Michelle Rodriguez as Rain Ocampo included–the film merely follows the familiar formula, employing an endless stream of fight and chase scenes in fitting with the franchise’s video game origins. Development of plot and protagonists is absent, as is coherence and complexity, until a crassly-calculated last minute cliffhanger designed to sustain another sequel. Alas, all that the flailing feature succeeds in is continuing Jovovich’s action credentials, but even they too are fading.
Resident Evil: Retribution was released in Australia on September 13th.
Director: Paul W.S. Anderson
Starring: Milla Jovovich, Sienna Guillory, Michelle Rodriguez, Li Bingbing, Aryana Engineer