Cast

Milla JovovichAlice
Sienna GuilloryJill Valentine
Michelle RodriguezRain
Aryanna Engineer – Becky
Bingbing LiAda Wong
Boris KodjoeLuther West
Johann UrbLeon S. Kennedy
Kevin DurandBarry Burton
Oded FehrCarlos
Shawn RobertsAlbert Wesker

Directed by Paul W.S. Anderson

Rated R for sequences of strong violence throughout.

Review

Of all the different mediums Hollywood uses to look for potential film adaptations, video games are one of the most alluring. Many already have built-in fan bases that will flock to theatres for the opportunity to see their favorite characters on the silver screen, and many others are basically interactive films to being with. However it is apparently not as easy as it seems, as many video game adaptations range from mediocre to flat-out disastrous, and that is not even taking into account the monstrosities that Uwe Boll churns out on a regular basis. In spite of this, there is one franchise that has, at least financially, managed to avoid such a stigma: Screen Gems’ Resident Evil franchise, based off the popular survival horror video game franchise of the same name. For ten years now director Paul W.S. Anderson has been chronicling the tale of Alice (portrayed by his wife Milla Jovovich) and her fight against the Umbrella Corporation, with a combined gross of over $202 million in its lifetime. While this series may have superhuman endurance, it has crossed into dangerous territory, as not many films can brag about having fantastic fifth installments.

One of these films’ greatest strengths throughout the years is that while they do remain fairly faithful to the source material, it has never been afraid to stray away from just being direct copies of the games. This was one of the primary reasons why the first Resident Evil film worked so well, as the introduction of a brand new character in Jovovich’s Alice and using the story to explain how the outbreak actually occurred made for a great companion piece for the games. In order to appease the fanbase of the games however, the filmmakers have opted with each installment of the series to bring in more and more characters from the games. While it is not a bad idea to do this and it worked fairly well in previous installments, it comes back to bite Retribution square in the ass. There are so many characters running around shooting and screaming and punching that it is hard to keep track. And this is coming from a person who has an understanding of the games and knows who all of these characters are–those who are unfamiliar with these characters may get confused quickly.

Compounding this problem is that even some of the characters who have previously been killed off in earlier installments also show up, exacerbating the problem even further. Two of the greatest examples for this are Michelle Rodriguez and Oded Fehr. Rodriguez is actually given a fair amount to do throughout, managing to have an impact on the film as it progresses–even if it is the same old schtick that we have always seen from her (although there is a short instance where this is not true and it is insanely refreshing). Fehr, on the other hand, is absolutely wasted. Most of his work comes in early in the film, and then he is regulated to background character duty for the rest of the film. It is a waste of talent and resources all around, and it hurts the film as a whole since it is a character who further clogs up the screen.

As for the newcomers to the cast, many of them are just their as fan service disguised as a sub-plot. Urbb’s Kennedy is okay, although he isn’t given all that much to do besides grimace and shoot at things (and on a minor nitpicking note, Urbb looks a little too old to be the pretty boy Leon S. Kennedy) while Durand does a decent job as Barry Burton even though he is given just as little to do as Urbb. The two highlights from this fresh batch are Li and Engineer as Ada Wong and Becky, respectively. Li, while yet again not given much to do, does a good job of playing the woman of mystery, Wong, and does manage to add a small but welcome level of intrigue to the film. I was pleasantly surprised by how well Engineer’s performance as Alice’s “daughter” Becky. While my stance on child actors should be well-known by now, she was bearable and actually likable. This may be because of the fact that the filmmakers use her sparingly but she works as a character and gives Alice a reason to care beyond the usual “I must destroy Umbrella!” motivation.

Wrapping up the the cast is Jovovich (who I am beginning to believe does not age because she looks just as good as she did ten years ago in the first film) as Alice and Guillory, the primary antagonist (and video game series mainstay) Jill Valentine. Keeping with the theme of most of the cast, neither actor is given too much to do beyond growl lines every now and then and shoot things. Which is a shame in the case of Jovovich, as she does have enough on-screen charisma and likability that it does feel like a misuse of her talent. But in the case of Guillory, this actually turns out to be a blessing as she is by far the weakest component of the cast. She performs her action sequences just fine, but the delivery of her lines feel so forced and fake that it borders on cringe-wrothy. Due to this, it takes away from the dynamic that should be there between a protagonist and antagonist and it removes an important layer that the film desperately needs to succeed.

As a result of the decision to bloat the film with so many characters, the story of the film is dead on arrival. It is barely understandable and does not add much to the franchise’s lore beyond the added characters. Yes, the series has never been know for its writing, but Anderson (who has written every entry of the series) has done a far better job in the past. All the plot seems to do is meander around for a few minutes until the next action sequence pops up and then repeat itself until it is time to tease the next installment of the film and cut to credits. And there lies the problem — the film feels like it is just clearing its throat for what looks to be the final installment of the series. This is one of the many drawbacks of the sequel/franchise culture that most of Hollywood has taken to in the past decade: The longer a series of films go, the higher the chance for one of the films to be nothing more than filler until the main event. This is a growing problem that is somewhat concerning, as it looks to become more and more of a problem as more big-time franchises get underway.

The redemption of the film is that while the action sequences shanghai the story, they are at least entertaining to watch. Some of the fights earlier on, with the exception of an interestingly shot battle at the very beginning, are somewhat dull but by the midway point they begin to find their rhythm and are a lot of fun to watch. They tend to build on one another until the climax of the film, where the audiences is treated to a spectacular fight between the survivors. It is fast-paced and brutal, which adds some tension to the climax that is sorely needed. It begins to drag on near the end, but it still manages to be fun and rewarding for those who have been following the whole series. Anderson seems to know that his biggest strength is the action sequences, and though he relies a little too much on them, they definitely work out in his favor in the end.

Bottom Line

While not being the weakest entry in the franchise, Resident Evil: Retribution is still disappointing. The lack of a fully coherent story and a cast bloated with too many characters really does the film in, despite some fun and exciting fight scenes. The film does manage to pull a Saw VI and give the film a solid tease for what could very well be the end of the series, but by then the damage is done. This installment does breathe a little more life into the series that Afterlife took away, it feels more like a throat-clearing than a complete addition to the tome of the Resident Evil films. Fans of the films who have already come this far should check it out but only at a matinee price, while others may want to look elsewhere if they are in the mood for an action fix.

Resident Evil: Retribution Theatrical Trailer

About The Author

Kevin McDaniel graduated from Grand Valley State University in 2012 majoring in Film and Video Production with a minor in Writing. His thesis film, Gus Baranto, P.I. and the Case of the Missing Pudding, was also released that year to some bemused laughter and confused looks. Since graduating, he has worked on the feature film Sand Castles, due to hit out the festival circuit late next year. Ever since he was young, he has had a large interest in film - and thanks to a childhood fascination with Batman – the crime and film noir genres. His three primary influences as a filmmaker are Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas, John Carpenter’s The Thing, and Saw, although his favorite film is Brick .

When not writing for DestroyTheCyborg, Kevin is usually either locked in his room playing video games or locked in his office working on various scripts, including The Party which is being co-developed with fellow DTC writers Mike Rapin and Chase Szymanski. If not indoors, he might be riding his bike or at a baseball game, depending on the weather. While not as avid a comic book reader as he once was, Kevin enjoys the various works of Steve Niles, Greg Rucka and Garth Ennis. Although if he had to choose a side, he would be a Marvel.

Outside of his geek culture, Kevin is a pretty normal guy despite having his birth constantly compared to the chest-burster scene from Alien. He is occasionally told that he looks like Ashton Kutcher, which mildly irritates him. Another fun fact about him is that he would one day like to learn how to swing dance. His celebrity crush is Michelle Trachtenberg and his favorite color is gray. This is also a great time to mention that he considers it really awkward writing about himself in the third person. He currently resides in the Cleveland, Ohio area with his hamster, Miranda.

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