Five movies into the Resident Evil franchise, super-survivor Alice still battles zombies, monster mutants and, most of all, the malevolent, virus- and zombie-spawning Umbrella Corporation.
Containing almost no story, Resident Evil: Retribution shows the series’ video-game origin more than ever.
For instance, in the bowels of an Umbrella Corporation research facility located beneath the ice and snow of northern Russia, Alice suits up in her black leather and weapons for the purpose of blasting anonymous security personnel who confront her in a video game-style hallway. Later, for what seems like days, an army of undead Russian soldiers pursues Alice and her human allies through Moscow.
Alice also walks among a strangely robotic crowd of pedestrians in Tokyo before the Umbrella Corporation’s devastating T-virus hits the fan. The normally well-behaved Japanese become flesh-craving zombies, forcing poor Alice back into the Umbrella facility from which she’s just escaped.
Milla Jovovich, the Resident Evil series’ fetching leading lady and chief zombie killer, reprises her signature role as Alice. The 36-year-old Ukrainian-born actress and model continues to wear her commando-bondage outfits well, no doubt one of the reasons she got her very successful Resident Evil gig.
Backtracking a bit, Alice is the former head of security for the Hive, the underground facility from which the Umbrella Corporation’s T-virus escaped to infect the world’s human population. Alice, unlike other subjects purposefully infected by the Umbrella Corporation, didn’t become a zombie. She didn’t just survive the infection, she evolved, gaining superhero-style powers. A big advantage when millions of zombies want to chomp on her.
Unfortunately, the evil Albert Wesker (Shawn Roberts) took Alice’s powers from her in 2010’s Resident Evil: Afterlife, a somewhat better film than 2012’s Resident Evil: Retribution. But Alice being Alice, she’s still resourceful.
Retribution gets some Twilight Zone-like mileage from Alice’s scenes from another life. It’s morning in America. Alice is a suburban mom with a husband on his way to work. They have a young daughter. Life is beautiful, but it won’t stay that way.
Back at the Umbrella Corporation, Alice joins the team of commandoes sent to rescue her and assassin Ada Wong (Li Bingbing). The team includes returning Resident Evil series cast members Colin Salmon and Boris Kodjoe. As always, the odds against survival are overwhelming.
Paul W.S. Anderson, the writer for all five Resident Evil films and director of three of them, including Retribution, stages a sleek, good-looking product with movie No. 5. The skeletal plot matters little amidst the marathon sequences of tightly choreography, stylized violence.
A few good shocks arise in the new Resident Evil but suspense and fright are missing in action. And even though Alice’s maternal instincts -- inspired by an innocent girl caught up in the mayhem (Aryana Engineer) -- kick in, the film remains a coldly precise, mechanized enterprise.
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