Sunday, September 16, 2012

Resident Evil Retribution - A Review by Ken Vazquez

by Kenneth Alexander Wright Vazquez
‎"EVIL GOES GLOBAL" according to the marketing for RESIDENT EVIL: RETRIBUTION, too bad the plot is globally inconsistent and a failed attempt at making any sense.

Paul W.S. Anderson (Shopping, Mortal Kombat, Event Horizon, Soldier, Alien VS Predator, Death Race, The Three Musketeers) delivers yet another entry in the video game based franchise with his usual kinetic, fast, sleek and hard hitting flair. Digital effects are sharp, fight scenes are balletic and brutal, shoot outs are non stop and furious with synchronized and slow motion reloading, sets are vast and the photography is pretty darn clean, sometimes stark and gritty. Anderson sure knows how to make a bad movie look good, that's why he's more or less the Roger Corman of a new generation but without the social commentary.
Milla Jovovich continues to prove that she's the Merryl Streep of action movies and a credible actress of great range as the depowered/powered yet again female lead, Alice. As Alice, the one woman army who wages war upon the evil pharmaceutical conglomerate Umbrella Inc and It's legion of the dead and mutated monsters, Milla brings her trademark toughness and warmth to the only appealing and pretty much important role of the franchise. Trust me, Milla is the main redeemable aspect of this epic train wreck.

I was wondering how the heck was Paul W.S. Anderson going to bring back Michelle Rodriguez to this installment since her character was killed in the very first. Still, here she is playing not one but two very different roles and doing so very well. Michelle is the other positive aspect of the film, is just disappointing that there wasn't enough of her. This problem, where good things don't seem to last long, plagues all of the Resident Evil movies.

If there's one thing the Resident Evil games are known for, besides zombies, story and action, is the characters. Every time a new movie comes out we fans of the games apprehensively look forward to the film version of beloved and favorite characters. What hurts is the fact that Anderson does a horrible job at bringing these interesting and deep characters to life.

The gorgeous and exotic Li Binbing (The Forbidden Kingdom, Snow Flower and The Secret Fan) plays the beautiful and resourceful secret agent Ada Wong. Li easily looks the part what with her elegant and sexy red dress and ever so often accurately emulating the body language, while kicking ass, of her video game counterpart. However, Ada's deviousness, seductiveness and playfulness were severally down played to the point that it was nowhere near. At times it felt as though she was thoroughly dubbed, kept around only to provide the much needed and senseless exposition and to look pretty. This isn't Li's fault but Anderson's in both writing and direction.

Leon S Kennedy, a cop/government agent, is another well known and recognizable character in the video game franchise. Estonia born actor, Johann Urb (2012, Zoolander, 1408), kind of resembles the role and acts dashing but like the previous films, this part is not elaborated or explored upon enough to actually care. Even accomplished character actor Kevin Durand (X Men Origins: Wolverine, Legion, I am Number Four, Real Steel) gets shafted big time as the cigar chomping and magnum toting Barry Burton. He's given absolutely no development or proper treatment of any kind. The statuesque and very attractive Sienna Guillory (The Time Machine, Eragon, Love Actually) reprises her role of Jill Valentine from Resident Evil: Apocalypse, albeit mind controlled by Umbrella Inc, but no backstory is provided to explain how she ended up that way.

Of all these players the one which gets the most radical, unexpected and downright wrong switch up is that of villain Albert Wesker. Canadian actor Shawn Roberts (X Men, Resident Evil: After Life), who looks a lot like Sean William Scott, returns as the antagonist, although nothing is said about how he managed to survive the events from the last film, we are expected to know that he somehow bailed out at the last minute (plane ejection noticed). Shawn remarkably looks like Wesker yes, but he sounds more like HAL, the homicidal computer from sci fi classic 2001: A Space Odyssey. This Wesker is a far cry from the evil and arrogant game version.

Oded Fehr (The Mummy, The Mummy Returns, Sleeper Cell, Burn Notice, Resident Evil: Apocalypse,            Resident Evil:  Resurrection), Colin Salmon (Resident Evil, Die Another Day, The Punisher: War Zone, Blood: The Last Vampire) and Boris Kodjoe ( Resident Evil: After Life, The Surrogates, Soul Food: The Series) come back as fodder and to last as long as Anderson needs them to.

This franchise has gotten successfully worse with each and every sequel. Whatever is established in the plotting of one you can be sure it won't be put to much use in the next. An awesome army of Alice clones (cloning manages to somehow do wonders for the narrative in Retribution) was introduced at the end of the third film (RE: Resurrection) and completely decimated without a thought in the intro of RE: After Life. The fate of two supporting characters from After Life, Chris and Claire Redfield, played by Wentworth Miller (Prison Break) and Ali Larter (Heroes) respectively, is not even mentioned after the rather explosive and stunning "rewind" opening sequence. These films are unfaithful to and a huge disservice to the games.

Despite its flaws, departures and many shortcomings, RESIDENT EVIL: RETRIBUTION does manage to entertain, however, Paul W.S. Anderson's direction just makes it a good looking mess which like the undead it refuses to die. Here's to hoping the sixth one makes more sense and wraps it all up. Yes, there's a sixth "biohazard" in the works.