DM Haight

 

What can be said about Resident Evil: Retribution that won’t be said by anyone else? For one, it actually isn’t a bad flick. It has the mindless jumble of chaotic shots and explosions, the hordes of undead Russians, and the brainiac abominations that audiences have grown to admire in the film franchise. The video game-based saga is intense from start to finish—from a reverse beginning that borders on artistic, to the mash-up of punches and elbow spikes of the finale. Throughout the course of the film, audiences will find it difficult to look away and will find it a gratuitously good time. Of course, the best part comes from the realization one has about a quarter into the movie—it is possibly the best adaptation of video game to screen. It is definitely not high cinema, nor is its plot well conceived, which is something most of us have been looking for in a video game-to-film adaptation. The fact of the matter is that Retribution is a hot mess in narrative throughout the film, and only in the end do we see what Anderson was shooting for. Even though he missed his mark, he did show that this film is indeed a solid portrayal of what a video game would be like on the silver screen.

The costuming is actually perfect, if not hokey. Sienna Guillory, who plays Jill Valentine, is a prime example, wearing her skin-tight purple jumpsuit, covered in holsters for her petite machine guns, all topped with a silver spider medallion on her chest, encrusted with a red jewel, which of course the Red Queen uses to control her—oh, and there is some cleavage to go with it. Guillory isn’t the only one who has an interesting style. The one character who seemed completely lifted out of a video game, Ada Wong, played by Li Bingbing, runs around in a kimono, ripped up the leg for easy access to her weapons. Jovavich’s costume is intense as well, starting off in the suburban housewife attire, ending in some S&M getup with belts and buckles all over the place, and leather griping every inch of her body. The strange outfits of the film are half the fun, though, because they are so out of the norm. They are so campy that they bring us back to the days of Mortal Kombat, as if we are watching a fight between Sonya Blade and Kitana. Instead, we watch a battle between Alice and Jill Valentine. These fashions are half the reason to see the film, because it perpetuates the incredible casting, wherein actors were found who actually look like and fit the roles they were playing, not to mention the clothes they were wearing.

But the insanity comes from the acting. That’s where the video game comes to life before the eyes of the moviegoers. Shawn Roberts, who plays Albert Wesker, the toppled head of The Umbrella Corporation, is incredibly unbelievable in his role, to the point of being overtly campy. He is so muscled-up and smug that one can’t help but feel an indecent amount of contempt for the character, but we can’t look away because the very idea of a buff jerk wearing cheesy sunglasses, running around and planning invasions of hidden testing areas, all while acting as if his next workout is in ten minutes in the Weston Room of some hotel is too much for anyone to turn away from, especially since there is a zombie/mutant apocalypse right outside the walls that protect him. His voice is just more than anyone can handle, and it’s a theme throughout the film as a whole. The voice work is just so smooth. Too smooth. Video game voice-over smooth. It gives the characters a spacey quality, airy and distant. Bingbing has a serious case of it, to the point where I wasn’t entirely sure it was her voice coming from her mouth. Guillory at one point actually seems to have intentionally elongated an awkward pause in her own speech, drawing memories of lagging speech patterns in our favorite RPG character’s dialogue, making the monologue sound off, but at the same time dead on.

What Retribution boils down to is a silly romp. Audiences familiar with gaming will see the clichés often found in their favorite RPG. The occasionally poorly synced voiceovers, the bad dialogue, the really awful haircuts, leather galore, S&M gear, over-the-top score, and epic choreography all reek of video game. But that is exactly what makes the film so enjoyable. It is mindless. It is simple. It is gory. It is fun. Anderson’s return to the directing chair of the franchise has given it a new breath. For all intents and purposes, the video game style of film making boosts the film’s overall enjoyment factor. Retribution might be among the best adaptations of a video game in recent memory, if only for the laughs and ridiculousness of the whole affair. Unlike its predecessors, it does not feel overlong, repetitive, or dull. It is everything one comes to expect from a good video game. The cinematography is beautiful, the special effects are spot on and the battle between Alice and the Red Queen is obviously not over by the end of the film. Oddly enough, by the end of Retribution, you aren’t left wanting more, you are left waiting for more. Considering other video game adaptations, that is a skill worthy of praise.

 

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