Starring Milla Jovovich, Sienna Guillory, Michelle Rodriguez. Written and directed by Paul W.S. Anderson. R. 95 min. Opens Sept. 14.
Resident Evil: Retribution may be the least impressive sci-fi action film wherein Milla Jovovich dispatches an insane amount of mutant zombies, but it’s also the most honest. Given that the movie franchise started as a spin-off from a video game (not the other way around), it’s entirely appropriate that this fifth Resident Evil instalment takes place, for the most part, within a life-sized video game.
Picking up exactly where Resident Evil: Afterlife left off—via an inspired bit of backwards slow-motion 3-D footage—Retribution finds resident zombie killer Alice (Jovovich) captured and then tortured and interrogated by minions of the evil Umbrella Corporation while trapped at the bottom of a giant hyper-stylized holding cell. (Umbrella, which the Jovo-talking-head-prologue will tell you, is the entity that developed the zombie-fying T-virus, and has been pursuing Alice through five films for a variety of nefarious reasons.) What follows is approximately 70 minutes of Alice—aided by a crack team of militarized bros—fighting her way out of the northern Russia–based Umbrella superstation, which is actually made up of a whole bunch of replicated urban centres (Moscow, New York City, Tokyo) where the effects of the mutant zombie virus is tested.
Whenever Alice (and whoever happens to be with her at the time) enters a new environment, she faces a new zombie challenge. Mostly, these are recycled scenarios: a double dose of the axe-wielding zombie-ogre from Resident Evil: Afterlife and a suburban zombie takeover that’s strikingly similar to the 2004 remake of Dawn of the Dead. No matter the threat, there’s very little at stake throughout the film, since we already know that these scenarios are (rather shoddily) manufactured by the superstation’s computer brain (The Red Queen). And the introduction of a cloned child—whom Alice feels compelled to protect—fails to humanize the proceedings in any way.
Instead, Retribution is laughably predictable in its push towards the inevitable CG-enhanced hand-to-hand showdown between Alice and the head Umbrella agents. Even the big reveal in the film’s final moments—which, by now, anyone who’s seen a Resident Evil film should be counting on—doesn’t make up for the plodding, by-the-numbers plotline and total lack of memorable characters. As usual, Jovovich deserves an Oscar for enduring Alice’s predicaments with a straight face—everything else is prime Razzie material.