Review: Resident Evil: Retribution

daniel cohen goes global…

Plot: Alice (Milla Jovovich) forms an uneasy alliance with her past nemesis Albert Wesker (Shawn Roberts) in order to escape a high tech Umbrella facility controlled by the Red Queen (Megan Charpentier), an artificial intelligence program.

We’re still waiting on that first great video game movie. But if you want a decent video game movie, director Paul W.S. Anderson is your guy. Not only is this his fifth turn as Resident Evil director, but he also gave us the first Mortal Kombat movie, which I can’t believe still holds the title for best video game movie to date. This is actually my first foray into the Resident Evil franchise, but don’t worry…I did my Wikipedia research. And while I’m not here to say this is a great franchise by any means, I think the reason people keep coming back is because of Milla Jovovich, the female Arnold Schwarzenegger.

This movie simply doesn’t work without Jovovich. She is a true blue action star. She knows how to pose, she knows how to deliver lame one-liners charismatically, and she’s really good at kicking ass. I don’t think Alice is some fantastically written character, but I can see why she’s engaged audiences for five films. Jovovich has always had great presence. Even in last year’s absolutely horrendous The Three Musketeers, she was a bright spot.

But unlike that film (also directed by Anderson), this movie has a lot more to offer than just Jovovich punching and kicking a lot of people. As I said, this is my first journey into Resident Evil land, so maybe others will be thinking, ‘been there, done that,’ but I really dug the visuals and environments in this film. There’s a great shot of Alice lying down in this white room getting tortured that is gorgeous to look at. This scene also has some well mixed voice acting by Sienna Guillory who plays Jill, a former ally of Alice, but now controlled by Umbrella, as well as Ave Merson-O’Brian who voices the Red Queen, the artificial intelligence used by the Umbrella Corporation.

Aside from the desolate environments, there’s great action to go along with it. Right off the bat, we are kicked into high gear with a great looking aerial spectacle. Anderson really shines in directing action: very crisp and clear. And as he showed way back when with Mortal Kombat, his fight scenes are brutal. here’s a fight Alice has at the end where she takes devastating shot after devastating shot, and you could almost feel the hits. It was very impressive fight choreography. But I only enjoyed the human against human fights. Any time there was a monster attack, it was pretty lame.

One of the other weaknesses is that Alice is the only truly intriguing character. It’s not that the other characters are bad, or that the actors are doing a bad job, but they are just ‘whatever.’ They can pretty much be classified as ‘Random Alliance.’ They also had their fair share of cheesy lines. The one character I wanted to see more of though was Wesker, who I know plays a bigger role in the other films. He seemed like a real douchey villain, wearing those slick sunglasses and white suit. I wanted more of him, and I like how the actor (Shawn Roberts) played him. It’s pretty hammy, but it works.

The one character I legitimately did not like though was Michelle Rodriguez as Rain. I’m just not a Michelle Rodriguez fan. She plays the ‘I’m a tough girl’ act so overly tough to the point where it’s just annoying. Or maybe I just don’t like her because her character on Lost was so infuriating, I don’t know. Bottom-line: she’s an actress I’ve never been able to latch onto.

For my first Resident Evil experience, I was pleasantly surprised. And this succeeded in that it makes me want to check out the previous films. I will say though that the tease at the end doesn’t exactly get me excited for the next one. It looks to focus more on the monsters, and I’d rather see the humans. While I’ve only seen one of these films, I can already tell this series would be much cooler if they cut out the zombies and monsters, but I’m sure that would send Resident Evil fanboys into convulsions.

The plot is lazy, but the action, visuals, and Milla Jovovich more than make up for it. The score was also pretty solid, albeit a little too grungy at times. This is basically like a JV Matrix, but if you like that style of action, I would check it out.

Rating: 7 out of 10 (Good)

Daniel Cohen is the hard-boiled Film Editor for the Pop Break. Besides reviews, Daniel writes box office predictions, Gotham reviews and Oscar coverage. He can also be found on the Breakcast. If Daniel was sprayed by Scarecrow's fear toxin, it would be watching Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen on a non-stop loop.