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Resident Evil: Retribution

Director: Paul W. S. Anderson
Cast: Milla Jovovich and Sienna Guillory

(US DVD: 21 Dec 2012)

Resident Evil: Retribution is the fifth entry of the outlandish Resident Evil film franchise. Needless to say, Resident Evil: Retribution is a brainless action flick, full of electrifying visuals but completely devoid of narrative complexity. But then again, one cannot deny that these five films have succeeded in bringing to the big screen the quintessential features of the popular videogame that inspires them.


Resident Evil: Retribution is a direct follow up from the previous sequel, Resident Evil: Afterlife. That is, the new film picks up immediately after the ending of its predecessor.  In a way, this is sort of amazing, as most probably nobody will care about continuity. Indeed, all these films are characterized by extremely convoluted storylines that may only be remembered by the serious fan of the Resident Evil series.


And just to be clear, an “extremely convoluted storyline” is completely different from “narrative complexity”. In particular, Resident Evil: Retribution is full of twists and unbelievable developments that do not make much sense. Furthermore, the film invokes cloning technology as a lame excuse to bring back to life several characters that had died on the previous installments of the series. But then again, Resident Evil: Retribution does not show any interesting character arcs. Indeed, most of these resurrected characters are brought back to life just to be killed a second time.


In a way, the senseless and unrestrained replication of characters that succumb to ghastly deaths, just to be brought back to life for a second fight, lies at the heart of Resident Evil: Retribution and the previous sequels.  Clearly, this is the true essence of a videogame, where avatars may be killed, but the gaming experience continues ad infinitum thanks to replication. And this might be the great divide between real and virtual worlds: the opportunity granted by the later to repeat past events as many times as necessary, without having to pay for our mistakes.


Not only does Resident Evil: Retribution have the same awkward ideology of a videogame, it also shares a similar narrative structure. In this film, Alice (Milla Jovovich) is trapped in a subaquatic installation property of the nefarious Umbrella Corporation. The place is revealed to be a testing facility for new forms of biological warfare, and the place is full of rampant zombies and other nasty creatures. To escape to the surface, Alice needs to fight her way out from point A to point B, crossing detailed mockups of Moscow, suburban America, and other places.


As such, watching Resident Evil: Retribution really feels like observing someone else playing a videogame. We have the same goal-oriented narrative, the showcase of specific scenarios on each level, a bunch of replicated characters that defeat death, a horde of plot holes, nonsensical actions played by all the supporting characters, and of course, lots of destruction and mayhem. Granted, as spectators we do not have any type of interaction with the narrative, but in return we have truly breathtaking visual effects that greatly surpass what can be accomplished on a videogame. As such, quite ironically, the inherent limitations of Resident Evil: Retribution are the source of its assets.


In addition, Resident Evil: Retribution offers a few things that may satisfy the indiscriminating horror fan (who else would be eager to watch a film with such an eloquent title?). For example, Resident Evil: Retribution showcases a solid direction by the indefatigable Paul W.S. Anderson, as well as a stylish soundtrack by Tomandandy.


Fans of the series will be pleased with the recently released blu-ray disc presentation of Resident Evil: Retribution courtesy of Sony Home Entertainment. Needless to say, the audio-visual quality is top notch. In addition, this blu-ray is full of extra features, including two audio commentaries, a few deleted scenes, and seven short documentaries on the making of the film. Of course, this impressive array of bonus content will only be of interest to the most devoted fans of the Resident Evil series.


In regards to the recommendation for our eclectic readers: this is a bombastic horror film. Its main highlights are exuberant scenes of hot chicks firing high caliber weapons at hordes of zombies and at each other. You will either love it, or you will hate it. And really, there is not much else that can be said about Resident Evil: Retribution.

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Marco Lanzagorta received a PhD in physics from Oxford University and has worked at prestigious research institutions in England, Italy, Switzerland, Mexico and the US. During the past 25 years, he has conducted research in physics, computer science, and neuroscience. Currently, Marco is a research physicist at a major defense research laboratory in Washington DC, and an affiliate associate professor at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia.


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