I adore action, but sometimes Hollywood movies take my passion for granted. Some of the Resident Evil movies have been guilty of this, as if just showing a hot girl fighting is enough to qualify as badass, although prestige movies like Salt are even more guilty of that. I mention this only as context to declare that Resident Evil: Retribution gets it right. It is a joy to watch and all is forgiven for Resident Evil: Apocalypse and Extinction.
Just the sincerity of Alice (Milla Jovovich) recapping the entire plots of the first four movies is amazing. She’s like, “What? Why wouldn’t we narrate the entire plot of four movies?” Now Alice finds herself trapped in an Umbrella Corporation simulation of T-virus outbreaks that she has to fight her way through, while a rescue team comes to try to extract her. Umbrella created the simulation to sell the T-virus to the Russians, because of course they did. Why wouldn’t you create lifelike simulations of a chemical weapon to create a geopolitical bidding war?
As such, Retribution is just one action scene after another. It is gratuitous in the best possible way. Action for action’s sake gets a bad rap but it’s a wonderful mode of genre storytelling. Just like a musical should have the greatest songs and dancing or a comedy should have the best jokes, an action movie should deliver the greatest excitement. I won’t go too far into this tangent, but story based action is a fine mode of storytelling too, just not the only one, and this one shouldn’t be neglected.
The action has gotten way better too. Jovovich seems to have built upon the wirework she’s learned from all her previous films because she can perform series of moves that are well beyond the standard kata most actors learn for their fight scenes. You can see Jovovich doing the moves herself, just with the wires digitally removed. I’m not quite sure how some of the choreography works, like, how does wrapping that chain around her neck help her strike a zombie? Maybe it builds momentum.
This series of action scenes captures the idea of a relentless onslaught. There’s no pretense that it needs to be more. Sometimes people are just trying to attack you. Not that it’s lazy. Each scene is still awesome. The Tomandandy score has a lot to do with creating that momentum. There’s obviously CGI but there’s still real people on wires, real cars doing spins and stunts. The CGI just enhances it. Remember that axe guy from Resident Evil: Afterlife? Now there’s two axe guys! Two!
This is one sexy movie. Jovovich is in her prime doing her best physical work (and still rocking a flimsy medical gown in one scene). You’ve got Sienna Guillory as queen bee Jill Valentine with a robot spider on her boobs, Li Bingbing as Ada Wong showing leg in her gown and Michelle Rodriguez with big guns… and big guns. It just warms my heart that these ladies worked out and dressed up and performed for my entertainment.
The Blu-ray looks beautiful, as I’ve found most 3D movies do on 2D Blu-ray. My personal uninformed theory is that they combine the two images to make the best single superimage, but it’s probably just shot really high def for stereoscopic viewing in the first place. The opening shot of Retribution is beautiful deep blue water, then the grit of the tanker and debris from the shootout. The pseudo-Kubrickian room with the naked Alice is really pretty and totally clear high-def imagery with pure white backdrop and solid red shapes. You can see some serious camel toe in the all the spandex action suits too.
There are a couple digital noise flare-ups in sequences with the rescue team, and again in the subway tunnel tracks. Some of the green X-ray shots don’t hold up. The clone factory has some spotty CGI, but those are a few minor seconds out of 85 glorious HD minutes. The detail in all the locations from the snow banks to the brick Moscow streets and slight Times Square simulation is stunning. You do see all the detail in the CGI creatures, like the new Lickers and the Axemen.
I liked the movie so much I actually wanted to listen to both of the audio commentaries. Each have Paul W.S. Anderson, but in one he’s joined by the actors Milla Jovovich and Boris Kodjoe, and the other is Anderson and producer Jeremy Bolt. The actor commentary ends up featuring more informative production stories Jovovich is approaching it as someone who had to be patient for all the problems. She’s also acting like a kid looking for attention, but she’s good at it and all her giggly noises are cute. Kodjoe can keep up by the end. Anderson calls it a commen-try track because he’s British, and his second track is more about “how to” for each sequence, with some going more smoothly than others. It’s interesting that Rolls Royces are crap for stunts.
The deleted/extended scenes have even more action, including an amazing extended fight. The gag reel shows Jovovich and Rodriguez in some fun not-so-badass moments, and a series of featurettes explore all the basic aspects of production. The most telling is the fight choreography featurette, in which Anderson cites Thai martial arts movies as his influence. No wonder the fights look so much better in Retribution. Lastly a short “Face of the Fan” spot lets a die-hard Resident Evil fan play a zombie on the set. It’s cute, but they covered up her awesome Umbrella Corp. scalp tattoo with gore.
"Project Alice" is a clunky “database” of menu screens that give you information on all the characters and creatures connected to Alice throughout the series. The cool part is each one comes with a highlight scene from one of the previous films, so really you get all the best parts from the Resident Evil movies without having to watch the whole movies. That makes Resident Evil: Retribution the only Resident Evil Blu-ray you’ll ever need. They won’t quote me on that because they still want you to buy the first four.
Read CraveOnline's original review of Resident Evil: Retribution
Fred Topel is a staff writer at CraveOnline. Follow him on Twitter at @FredTopel.