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Resident Evil: Retribution
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by Peter Sobczynski

"Alice Doesn't Die Here Anymore"
4 stars

The "Resident Evil" films have never had much use for such archaic concepts as plot, character or dramatic tension but with "Resident Evil: Retribution," the fifth installment of the long-running series inspired by the equally popular video game brand, the franchise completely slips the surly bonds of commercial filmmaking requirements to offer viewers a work so completely removed from lucidity or linearity that if it bore the signature of Luis Bunuel or Seijun Sezuki instead of that of Paul W.S. "The Other Master" Anderson, it would be celebrated on the pages of "Film Comment" or "Cahiers du Cinema" as a masterpiece of experimental cinema. (In a perfect world, it would be highlighted there nevertheless, but never mind.) In other words, I liked it a lot. Of course, by making that admission, I realize that a good number of potential readers have decided that I have lost my marbles and have fled to study the words of saner and soberer minds. Frankly, I don't entirely blame them but for the hardy souls like you who have decided to stick it out, let me see if I can properly explain my enthusiasm.

Taking place before, during, after and occasionally parallel to the events of the previous episodes (you'll see), "Retribution" finds the seemingly indestructible Alice (Milla Jovovich) on yet another adventure that finds her doing battle against the endless hordes of mutated zombie that have overrun the Earth thanks to the depravations of the malevolent Umbrella Corporation while searching for fellow survivors and/or safety. Although the ads suggest that the action will be taking place all over the world this time around, it turns out that her trek only consists of a couple of underground sound stages designed by Umbrella to resembles places like New York, Tokyo, Moscow and other places that could help bump up the international box-office take. As Alice makes her way from place to place, the backgrounds change so abruptly (a laboratory door opening into what appears to be downtown Tokyo) and presumably dead characters from earlier installment turn up with such frequency that the proceedings take on a hallucinatory edge that made me wonder if Anderson had actually designed the film to be a feature-length homage to the classic Chuck Jones cartoon "Duck Amuck," in which Daffy Duck was driven to distraction by the shifting surroundings supplied by a sadistic and largely unseen animator--I kept hoping that in the final shot, the camera would pull back to reveal Luc Besson at an AVID machine remarking "Ain't un salaud je ?"

The movie is, of course, one of the most preposterous things ever put on a movie screen and if I had even a modicum of shame or a tenuous grasp on my critical faculties, I would decry it has incoherent junk more in need of a Ritalin prescription than a cogent analysis. My guess is that there are plenty of critics out there who will be more than willing to do such things and while I most likely cannot disagree with their observations with a clean conscience, I cannot support them either because I was having too much fun watching it get especially upset with its blatant idiocies. Look, the "Resident Evil" movies--and "Resident Evil: Retribution" certainly falls under that heading--are big-screen junk food meant to appeal to the 14-year-old boy inside us all with its cacophony of ear-splitting noise, CGI gore, big guns, tiny dresses, fabulous-looking babes and a screenplay that contains less dialogue than the average Terrence Malick film (and of that, roughly 50% consists of expository ejaculations and the other 50% consists of the characters repeating said ejaculations so that no one in the audience gets confused).

While this kind of base cinema can be pure torture in most cases (such as the wretched "Underworld" films), I have a soft spot in my heart or head for the "Resident Evil" films that they keep hitting nearly every time. Part of this is because the films seems to have a healthy sense of their own inherent silliness and play up to it in ever-inventive ways--while I would be willing to suggest that any movie of this type might come up with the concept of Stalinist zombies chasing our heroes on a fleet of motorcycles through the streets of fake Moscow, only this film would dare add the lunatic touch of ensuring that all the cyclists were wearing safety helmets. Part of it is because while the fight scenes consistently defy the laws of logic and physics in ways that might even raise eyebrows within the Texas school system, they are such a gorgeous riot of sound and image that the entire film could be put on a constant loop in a trendy art gallery and it would seem perfectly at home in those surroundings. A large chunk of it is due to the magnetic screen presence of Milla Jovovich, who kicks, jumps and struts her way through the proceedings with a kind of droll panache that is just as fetching and alluring as the two thin sheets of paper that make up her entire wardrobe for several minutes of screen time. More importantly, unlike Kate Beckinsale in the "Underworld" films (not to beat up on those clinkers once again), who goes through her paces with a palpable sense of condescension towards the material, Jovovich still seems to be having fun with the material and that feeling can be sensed by the audience as well.

As much as I love "Resident Evil: Retribution," there is one aspect to it that even I cannot quite justify and it is one that has long plagued the series as a whole--the films always conclude with wild cliffhangers that promise far more than Anderson is willing or able to deliver. The opening does take up pretty much where the previous installment left off, with an gigantic air-sea battle but after a few minutes, we are back to the usual skulking around factory-like setting filled with smoke, steam and hallways that hordes of the undead can race through at a moment's notice. And yet, once again, it concludes with an image that, while as nonsensical as anything else on display, is undeniably arresting. However, when "Resident Evil 6" comes out (and considering how successful these things are around the world, that is pretty much a fait accompli), it will almost certainly abandon yet another promising conceit for more of the same old silliness. If it does stick with it, though, the end results could be enough to make the rest of you as giddy about these films as I clearly am and prove that maybe I am not as crazy as I sound.

Many critics like to talk about so-called "guilty pleasures"--films that they cannot justify enjoying on any other grounds than the fact that they enjoyed them. I don't particular subscribe to this type of thinking--perhaps it is the lapsed Lutheran in me that cannot ascribe the concept over feeling guilty for liking a film deemed to be less than worthy by the guardians of taste--but if I did, the "Resident Evil" films would my guilty pleasures. Right now, there are a number of good films that are either currently in release (such as the inexplicably neglected "Premium Rush" and "Cosmopolis") or just about to drop (such as the other Paul Anderson's stunner "The Master" or the equally audacious sci-fi epic "Looper"). "Resident Evil: Retribution," on the other hand, is a film that has been pretty much for no other reason than the fact that the previous films all made tons of money for Sony Entertainment and a new one is virtually assured to do the same. And yet, despite the admittedly less-than-noble reason for its existence, it still manages to be marvelous fun for those with a taste for the ludicrous, a sense that I hope and pray that I never lose.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=23723&reviewer=389
originally posted: 09/14/12 21:47:35
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User Comments

5/11/13 Happyreader Milla isnīt acting in the movies, she is just being herself. Great review! 1 stars
10/10/12 Pat Noon Ok, I have to admit these movies are a MAJOR guilty pleasure for me and this one was FUN! 5 stars
9/18/12 Frodo Baggins Thank you for this review. I appreciate your mention of Milla Jovovich having fun with it. 5 stars
9/17/12 Ambsor Awesome 5 stars
9/16/12 KingNeutron Enjoyable romp; Milla was awesome, Sienna G was horrible; opening scene was awesome 4 stars
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  14-Sep-2012 (R)
  DVD: 21-Dec-2012


  DVD: 18-Dec-2012

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