The Resident Evil franchise is like one big overdue library book; once you start to forget about it, there it is again, staring you dead in the face as you’re obligated to make a move. This isn’t a bad thing, as Paul W.S. Anderson’s eye-popping, ingeniously 3D-heavy brainchild has staying power, so much so that each new installment is consistently green lit without hesitation. As much as I unashamedly trashed Afterlife, I’ve somehow learned to appreciate these films for what they are, which is usually a heaping dose of pure escapism laced with eye candy and an appreciable air of self-deprecating self-awareness, and with that, Anderson’s crafted a serviceable entry into the long-standing Resident Evil mythos with predictable confidence and ease.
Detailing the cons right out of the shoot, yes, Retribution once again recycles the same evil conglomerate-heavy story arc complete with characters drawn in straight from Capcom’s series of games, ensuring us that these films are, quite conceivably, innumerable. Their involvement is questionable outside of the fabricrated superheroine that started it all, Alice (Milla Jovovich), of whom is still unceremoniously dragged through the proverbial ringer as she and her cohorts continuously struggle in thwarting Umbrella once and for all.
Conceptually, Retribution has more holes than you can shake an automatic machine pistol at, thrusting our protagonists headlong into a gigantic underwater VR simulator comprised of separate, infection-riddled locales with CG-generated behemoths and/or traditional zombie fare to fill with the ammo type of your choosing. This approach, in theory, is pure shallow-minded genius, loosely utilizing plot strands from past films to craft something wholly inconsequential yet involving enough to keep you hooked time and time again. Bullets and icepicks zing past your face at regular intervals, helping one put aside the notion that everyone involved has been running in circles for roughly a decade, and of course, it doesn’t hurt to have one grandiose, moreover gripping action set piece segue seamlessly into another for entertainment’s sake.
At the end of the day, Retribution is far from revolutionary, so steeped in its own inanity that it obviously couldn’t give two shits about the general public’s opinion of it. It sets out to do the only thing it can do, and given how Jovovich has been sleepwalking through these films since their inception, it’s a plus to have her utmost conviction paired with each stint as the titular Alice as she endlessly slays her way to intermittent freedom. Poor girl indeed, but these films are all about flash and no substance and should therefore be treated as such. Long story short, it won’t garner any new fans, but for those considered easily amused, Resident Evil: Retribution has a few new tricks up its sleeve as well as those of the still-effective, tried-and-true variety, impressing as avidly from a technical standpoint as it always has.