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Film review: 'Resident Evil: Retribution' storyline has as much life in as the zombies

September 17, 2012|By BOB GARVER | Special to The Herald-Mail
  • Alice (Milla Jovovich) is back killing zombies in "Resident Evil: Retribution."
Screen Gems

How did the "Resident Evil" franchise get to five movies?

 Of course, the easy answer is that all the films have made a small profit and the studio is sticking with what works.

What I don't understand is how the franchise has managed to retain its audience for over a decade. It doesn't take more than two movies to figure out that they all have the same structure: Alice (Milla Jovovich) fights zombies alongside a handful of survivors. Most of her fellow humans get killed, but Alice lives long enough to do battle with the evil Umbrella Corp. The audience's best hope for something original or interesting is that the film will have some creative kill scenes and that Alice will so something  super-sexy.

The violence of "Retribution" consists of shooting, shooting — and more shooting. The zombies bite and claw as always, but the humans solve their problems by shooting. I really miss those death beams from the first few films that would slash people to pieces when given the chance. As for nudity, there are two key scenes. In the first, we see Alice in her skivvies as she wakes up in bed in a fantasy world. So far, so good. Then, after being abducted by Umbrella, she wakes up in a facility wearing a smock that covers key areas in the front and back but not the side. The side view is great but the smock is a turn-off. It's made of what appears to be that paper that covers the bed in a doctor's office. I find it hard to be attracted to an outfit that could justly be described as "crinkly."

The semblance of plot is that Alice has to escape from the Umbrella facility before some good guy soldiers blow it up. She'll have help from the soldiers themselves, as well as a former Umbrella security officer (Bingbing Li, what a fun name!). She also finds that she has a simulated daughter, and foolishly goes out of her way to save the little robot. Enemies include traditional zombies, Russian zombies who know how to fire guns, giants with axes, mutant creatures, replicants of other characters from the "Resident Evil" series (including ones played by the returning Oded Fehr and Michelle Rodriguez), and a friend of Alice's named Jill Valentine (Sienna Guillory) who has been brainwashed by Umbrella into doing their bidding. Jill's mind is controlled by a robotic spider that plugs into her neck. She and Alice fight a few times, and I waited impatiently for Alice to figure out that she can get her friend back by simply ripping off that nasty piece of bling.

Alice has to go through some simulated cities to escape the facility. I liked that one of them was a sunny, peaceful suburb that gets torn apart by zombies. It's a nice change of pace from the usual dark, creepy buildings where you'd be scared to walk down the halls even if zombies weren't an immediate threat. One of the simulated locations is in New York City, and I can't help but point out that there's a battle right in front of Hershey's Times Square. I'm originally from Hershey, Pa., and if that wasn't enough of a connection, I start Monday as an employee of that very store.

OK, so "Resident Evil: Retribution" found a way to curry my favor for about a minute. That doesn't change the fact that it's a typically bland entry in an overcooked zombie franchise. There will surely be a sixth "Resident Evil," partly because this installment ends with a setup for one, but mostly because it's enjoying a great opening weekend. The past few weeks have seen an extremely lackluster slate of new releases and "Retribution" easily laid claim to a restless audience. The box office was dying for a good popcorn movie, it settled for "Resident Evil: Retribution."



One and a Half Stars out of Five.



"Resident Evil: Retribution" is rated R for sequences of strong violence throughout. Its running time is 95 minutes.



Contact Bob Garver at rrg251@nyu.edu.

   

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