Wednesday, 3 October 2012



Well, they've done it. The Resident Evil films had been getting steadily less logical and plausible as the franchise went along but here it's gone completely tonto with a movie that's not just disregarding common sense but actively defecating on it from a great height. Characters killed off in earlier episodes? Let's just bring them back as clones. Yet another gigantic underground and underwater base somewhere off the Russian coast? Hell, why not? Shameless ripoffs from other movies? Oh, go on then. Milla Jovovich naked yet again? Well, if you insist. It probably helped that I rewatched the first three Resident Evils on DVD and the fourth on BluRay in a back-to-back marathon at the weekend as prep for this new one; despite the lengthy recap at the start it's useful to have the names and references in mind.

Resident Evil: Retribution certainly starts off boldly, with a huge action sequence played backwards under the credits, to end up with the closing frames of the fourth movie - and then Alice (Milla Jovovich) wakes up as a suburban housewife with a husband and a deaf daughter. Suddenly the zombies burst in....and then this is revealed as a huge Truman Show-style simulation filled with clones in order for the Umbrella Corporation, still running despite the global zombie apocalypse and the near-obliteration of humankind, to keep on testing their T-virus. They have a huge bunker under the coast of Russia containing huge simulations of Moscow, New York, Berlin and generic suburbia (and probably Stevenage) built under a former Soviet Union submarine factory. A squad of rebels has broken in to the base to rescue the real Alice, but the homicidal Red Queen computer system will stop at absolutely nothing to kill her (except for just killing her when it has the chance)....

So we get cameos by Colin Salmon and Michelle Rodriguez, the latter in three separate roles, despite both being killed off in the first movie; and villain Arnold Wexler (Shawn Roberts) from the fourth and heroine Jill Valentine (Sienna Guillory) from the second both switching sides. Milla Jovovich dressed reasonably sensibly for the last two entries but here spends much of the time in a black leather catsuit, leaping balletically into the air, firing guns, flinging knives and kicking zombies in the face in gorgeous, almost fetishistic slow motion. On that level of ridiculous zombie-bashing entertainment, Resident Evil: Retribution is a winner. But on any other level, like a script that makes a blind bit of sense or any remotely scary or exciting moments, it's an absolute disaster. Most of the effects sequences are so laden down with CGI - tsunamis, huge explosions, giant monsters - that what little crumbs of reality that survived the script are just lost.

More seriously, the film includes a staggering lift from Aliens so heavy that it couldn't be lifted with the heavy power-lifters from Aliens, as the deaf kid is snatched away by the giant monster thing and despite the countdown to a ginormous explosion Ripley Alice goes off to kill the beast and rescue the child from a cocoon: a shameless xerox even Roger Corman would have balked at on the grounds of blatant ripoffery. Granted, the Resident Evils are hardly dazzling in their originality, but this one, along with the early suburbia zombie outbreak which is straight out of the opening reels of Zack Snyder's (surprisingly not bad) Dawn Of The Dead, jars somewhat. Equally shameless and shameful is the utterly pointless 3D: there's not a single frame that benefits from the stereoscopic effect and the distributors have only released it that way, forcing the audience to pay extra for a meaningless effect that doesn't even work.

Yet curiously I don't care. There's enough wanton blood, gore, rampaging zombies, ridiculously violent fighting and the usual astonishing set design to stop things getting anywhere near dull, and there's always the fabulous Milla, whether dressed in black bondage gear or just a couple of tea towels sellotaped to her body, making the nonsense far more fun than it has any right to be. Resident Evil has now had five trips to a pretty dusty well and incredibly it hasn't entirely run out of steam just yet - brains, perhaps, but by the look of the last shot it's gearing up for a full-on undead Götterdämmerung of a Part 6 that, no matter how idiotic and unoriginal, I'm now absolutely looking forward to. And then - can Paul WS Anderson please do something else?


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