Some sequels suggest that no one involved with a franchise really cares anymore. Witness “Resident Evil: Retribution,” the latest and arguably least coherent entry in the long-running series starring Milla Jovovich as a straight-shooting, ass-kicking heroine who battles zombies inadvertently spawned by a multinational corporation whose overlords, truth to tell, don’t appear terribly sorry about their spectacularly destructive screw-up. Even devoted fans may wonder whether this installment is actually a haphazard patchwork of outtakes from previous “Resident Evil” pics. Still, international B.O. and vid sales probably will encourage the follow-up threatened at the end of this episode. Sony release had grossed a solid $8.4 million as of Friday.
Writer-director Paul W.S. Anderson, husband of the franchise’s formidably resilient leading lady, has concocted a plot that has something to do with a commando mission to rescue Alice (Jovovich) from the clutches of the nefarious Umbrella Corp., and something else to do with an extended chase through a massive underground complex of interconnected areas designed as humongous simulacrums of assorted suburbs and world capitals.
But it’s all too easy to believe that Anderson tossed his own script early on and simply showed up on the set every morning, downed two or three energy drinks and then asked his cast and crew: “OK, what do we shoot up or blow up today?” Bombs explode, vehicles collide, glass is shattered, automatic weapons are fired, and bit players — cast as either flesh-eating zombies, Umbrella Corp. security personnel or both — are sliced, diced, shattered and otherwise slaughtered with the sort relentless repetitiveness one normally associates with the music of Philip Glass. If so much of this death and destruction weren’t presented in slo-mo, the pic might be a good deal shorter than it is.
Here and there, Jovovich shows her maternal side when Alice bonds with a deaf little girl (Aryana Engineer) who may or may not be the heroine’s daughter. More often, however, it’s pretty much same-old, same-old for Jovovich, who relies even more than usual on her purposeful stride, graceful physicality and fiercely determined grimaces.
Several other alumni from earlier “Resident Evil” pics are on hand for this sequel, which, unfortunately, only serves to reinforce the overall enervating sense of deja vu. On the other hand, it’s undeniably amusing when the bodaciously badass Michelle Rodriguez (who seems to die even more often in this franchise than she does in the “Fast and the Furious” series) is handed a weapon, but hesitates to fire it. As she sweetly explains: “I campaigned for gun control.”
Production values indicate the producers spent a bit more money on this installment. Yet several shots obviously intended to dazzle look like images from, ironically, a second-rate vidgame, and the 3D effects aren’t anything to write home about, either.