I really like the Resident Evil movies. They’re not even a guilty pleasure--they are exactly what they are supposed to be, and I love them for it. What are they supposed to be, you ask? They’re supposed to be movies based on video game franchise. A franchise that has a ridiculous and convoluted fiction that is second only to the Metal Gear Solid universe, full of cartoon-like characters, insane monsters, and an evil corporation who unleashed the apocalypse on humanity.
The man behind the Resident Evil movies is Paul W.S. Anderson, who in my mind is the Rodney Dangerfield of the movie industry. While he’s best known for his video game adaptations, he also directed one of my favorite horror movies of all time, Event Horizon. And when it comes to video game movies, he directed some of the my favorites, including the original Mortal Kombat and 2005’s Dead or Alive. His approach to video game adaptations seems to be that of a 90's comic book artist--lots of action and set pieces with just enough story to string the scenes together.
Since 2002, Paul W.S. Anderson has been best known for the Resident Evil series of movies. I absolutely loved the first movie, and entries two, three and four were all really enjoyable (although never quite rose to the quality of the first one for me).
Resident Evil: Retribution, however, is my favorite of the series so far, and it takes the best ideas from the first movie and builds on them to create an action-packed, super fun hour and a half.
After a great opening sequence that is presented in reverse, we catch up with Milla Jovovich’s Alice, who is once again in the custody of the evil Umbrella corporation. She’s being held in a gigantic underground testing facility that is reminiscent of The Hive from the first RE movie, and must fight her way out to meet up with an extraction team that is being sent to meet her. The team fighting their way in to help Alice escape includes Barry Burton (from the original RE game), and Leon Kennedy (of RE2 and RE4 fame), while Alice meets up with Ada Wong (of RE2), who is actually working with Alice’s arch nemeis to help get her out. Standing in their way is an army of Umbrella goons, clones of her former friends, and every monster from the previous RE movies. The areas she has to navigate are testing areas made to resemble major cities of the world (New York, Moscow, Tokyo), where Umbrella was testing their various biological weapons on cloned human beings.
Now doesn’t that sound like the plot of a video game? Of course it does, and what’s even better is that Anderson matches the pacing, action and set pieces perfectly with plot. The movie plays out like a larger than life video game. The sets feel like levels, there are essentially boss fights, and it culminates with a fight that rivals the epic Roddy Piper/Keith David brawl from They Live.
The acting is a mixed bag, as you might imagine. I’ve always liked Milla as Alice because she owns that role, fully immersing herself in it. In terms of the supporting cast, everyone else is basically a cartoon, none more so than Shawn Roberts as Albert Wesker, who seems like he’s deliberately trying to do his best bad voice actor impersonation. For me, it all adds to the fun, though.
I’ve had more fun watching the Resident Evil movies than I’ve had in playing almost any of the games. Resident Evil: Retribution is a blast and I can’t wait for the sixth (and possibly final) installment. Bring it on.
4.5 out of 5 Millas