Oh, Paul W.S. Anderson. You just don’t know how to get out of your own way. Ten years ago, you made a decent little sci-fi flick in Resident Evil, a film that created the unique character of Alice (Milla Jovovich) and dropped her into the universe created by Capcom’s video game. Then, you made a sequel that barely made sense. Then another. Then another. And then, you made the fifth entry, Resident Evil: Retribution, a film that is so splendidly, wonderfully inept that it’s simply a marvel to behold, a monument to cinematic idiocy and irrelevance.
The plot of Resident Evil: Retribution is inconsequential, but we need to fill some space, so here goes: It picks up immediately after Afterlife, when Alice ended up on a tanker ship filled with people after fighting the evil Albert Wesker (Shawn Roberts), as it was being attacked by a bunch of fancy high-tech helicopters led by a brainwashed Jill Valentine (played listlessly by Sienna Guillory’s cleavage). Alice ends up knocked out and wakes up in a big white room, escapes from the big white room with the aid of Ada Wong (Li Bingbing), who is working for Wesker but is helping her because there’s a whole thing that you won’t care about anyway so let’s not bother.
Anyway, they’re actually in a giant underwater facility in Russia somewhere that has a bunch of simulated environments of places like Moscow, New York, Berlin and… um… suburban USA for some reason. And they have to fight their way through these environments to rendezvous with another group of fighters for some reason or other. There are zombies and giant ax-wielding super zombies and guys in overcoats and gas masks who never use gas and car chases and big monsters rocket launchers and then there’s a big one-on-one fight and then a cliffhanger ending. Oh, and a little deaf girl who thinks Alice is her mother and I just want to lie down for a little while, if you don’t mind.
The film, using all manner of cheap plot devices, brings back almost everyone from the earlier entries. Luther (Boris Kodjoe) somehow survived the big ship attack from Afterlife, Jill is alive because there’s a robot spider gnawing on her breasts, and through the marvels of cloning Alice has to fight off new models of Rain (Michelle Rodriguez), Carlos (Oded Fehr), and Shade (Colin Salmon). And as usual, Anderson tries to shoehorn in new characters from the convoluted video game series, even when they have no relevance or connection. This time around it’s a dazzlingly terrible performance by Johann Urb as Leon Kennedy and the typically underused Kevin Durand as Barry Burton.
None of this matters, because there’s no logic or subtlety or even an iota of intelligence to Resident Evil: Retribution. In fact, there isn’t even any retribution. AT ALL. Not only that, but the film’s tagline is “Evil Goes Global,” which is fantastic considering that the entire film takes place in a single building 300 feet under a sheet of ice in the Russian polar desert. So, not so much with the “global” part either. There’s the barest whisper of a story, but really it’s just a 90 minute excuse to have Milla run around in tight, impractical outfits and kick, shoot and punch things. The dialog was written using the Random Cliche Generator 3000™, including gems like “I’ve got this!” and “I’m running a bypass!” and “Let’s do this!” peppered with nonsensical revelations about the evil Umbrella Corporation that no one cares about because Anderson has no idea how to get his audience even slightly invested in his characters. The performances are almost trance-like in their woodenness, making you wonder if Anderson dopes his cast with Xanax and then never films more than one take. Even Milla has lost her zest, hoarsely mumbling her way through the forgettable and derivative dialogue without even a hint of life in her eyes.
The beauty of all of this is perfectly demonstrated in the final reveal — guess what?! There are more bad guys, and they’re coming! That’s the Resident Evil franchise: Alice wears tight clothing, beats the punchfuckening out of a bunch of live and dead bad guys, makes friends, loses friends, is confronted with the big bad, and then learns there are more big bads coming, roll credits. We’ve done this five times now, and it certainly appears like we’re headed for a sixth. Let me save you some trouble: Don’t. Just don’t. With any of them. They get worse and worse with each entry, and as hard as it is to believe, Retribution is without question the worst of the lot. It’s a bland, boring, repetitive series of explosions and screaming and bravado and kicksmashering and poorly shot wire-assisted flipperoos and then, there’s an ending in the sense that there are credits on the screen after something stupid happens and then I was back home. But none of it matters. You’ll just feel bored and tired, like I feel right now. And no movie should have that effect on you. Ever.