The more things change in Resident Evil, the more they stay the same for Alice and the Umbrella Corporation.
Alice is still fighting evil in Resident Evil: Retribution. Umbrella is still evil. Zombies still want to eat all the human survivors of past horrors involving the T-virus. Milla Jovovich is still a butt-kicking beauty who looks great in leather and latex. And Jovovich's husband of three years -- English-born filmmaker Paul W.S. Anderson -- is still in charge of the series as producer, writer and director.
Anderson adapted the gonzo video game and gave us the original Resident Evil movie 10 years ago. Two years ago, he returned to the director's chair -- after producing and writing episodes two and three -- and gave us the fourth episode, Resident Evil: Afterlife in 3D. Now the sci-fi horror and action specialist has done his finest work. Resident Evil: Retribution is the best Evil ever. It also happens to be Anderson's most accomplished filmmaking in any franchise or genre.
Retribution is the way genre pictures should be made and played -- and it's fascinating on the business side that these are international co-productions with a significant Canadian component. I expect it to win this year's Canadian film award as the top Canadian production at the hometown boxoffice. It should do great internationally, too.
The movie is convoluted, of course, but it is also slick, savage and thrilling. The ridiculous if sometimes surprising plot is secondary to the taut pacing, the explosive action and the quick reveal of the mental and physical state of characters, both familiar and new. Even the 3D effects, which are used as a gimmick here, actually do add a new dimension to our enjoyment.
In other words, the gimmick works. That applies both in intimate scenes, like witnessing one of Alice's clones trying to survive an attack on her house, or in big set pieces, such as watching real Alice and her pals trying to survive Umbrella's complex challenges and city environments.
As for performances, people don't "act" in a Resident Evil movie so much as they move. Jovovich moves brilliantly, even at 36 years old. It is intriguing to have Michelle Rodriguez back after a 10-year absence in the series. Likewise Colin Salmon. Oded Fehr is not an original cast member but he returns after missing Afterlife. Sienna Guillory makes it two in a row after missing Extinction. Among newcomers to the franchise are China's Li Bingbing and Canada's Kevin Durand (in a self-sacrificing heroic role right out of a war movie or classic western).
Resident Evil: Retribution looks great. It was shot almost entirely in Toronto, especially at the Cinespace Film Studios, which also hosted Afterlife. Some scenes were filmed on location in Moscow. It is difficult to fake Red Square, even with CGI. The real thing looks better, although reality vs. illusion is one of the themes of Retribution.
As for the next instalment, both Anderson and Jovovich seem committed to a sixth in the series. After that is a question mark. But Resident Evil has now generated $675.7 million in worldwide boxoffice grosses, according to Box Office Mojo. That is enough "mojo" to keep it going indefinitely, even without Jovovich.
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