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Resident Evil: Retribution

Year: 2012
Production Co: Screen Gems/Constantin Films
Studio: Sony
Director: Paul W S Anderson
Producer: Paul W S Anderson
Writer: Paul W S Anderson
Cast: Milla Jovovich, Michelle Rodriguez, Li Bingbing, Boris Kodjoe, Kevin Durand

Say you enjoy the Resident Evil movies in cineliterate company and you might as well admit you feel sorry for Harvey Weinstein, voted for Donald Trump or hate puppies. I've never been a devoted fan of the series, but here's something I noticed while watching this latest instalment – there's a lot more to like than dislike about it. Yes the script and the acting are woeful, but give me five minutes to think and I'll come up with a list of ten Oscar winners that had woeful scripts and acting.

On the other hand – and even though longtime franchise helmer Paul W S Anderson goes overboard on the sense of style – he throws the movie into it wholeheartedly to the extent the design and the style are the Resident Evil brand rather than the story, acting or anything else. If as much time was spent with writing as editing it might be much better – at least much better received – but something else you might not realise until you consider it is how great the production design and art direction are. I lost count of the number of instances where you could freeze the movie and make a high resolution print of the frame into very arresting, conversation-starting and at times beautiful wall art.

The story, if you really care, manages the usual trick of setting out from where the last film left off and proceeding to tell the exact same story again, one of thrills, spills, Matrix-like costuming and action in a world overrun by zombies and with the enigmatic bioengineered woman Alice (Milla Jovovich) kicking arse and taking names on a grand scale.

In this case, we start on a warship steaming through the ocean with the survivors from the last film huddling on board. After they're attacked from the air (and for evidence of the visual inventiveness on display, look no further than the attack sequence played out backwards over the opening credits) Alice is taken prisoner again, this time by the deposed CEO of the Umbrella Corproation, Luther West (Boris Jodjoe). He no longer runs the company, but wants to team Alice up with Umbrella assassin Wong (Li Bingbing) and send her to infiltrate an underground testing facility run by the company, to do... something... or other.

Meanwhile, a crack team of commandos are also penetrating the base, which runs simulations of zombie attacks on Moscow, New York and Tokyo to train Umbrella operatives (but which can somehow kill you for real – like I said about the script...). They're there ahead of Alice and Wong to do... something else... and stop... something... happening before time runs out.

It all results in an increasing series of boss battles with ever-more fierce monsters and creatures that up the ante and the sense of style despite how little sense the plot makes. If you're that much of a fan, the Resident Evil mythology might benefit from a marathon, sitting down to watch each in turn like you really need to do with the Saw series, because it's hard to know exactly who everone is and the story doesn't make a lot of sense (what/who exactly is Alice anyway?)

But where Anderson falls down as a writer he more than makes up for in editing, camerawork, angles, design and the liberal use of slo-mo. Little of it's terribly original, even when taking the rest of the franchise into account, but it does exactly what it says on the tin. Anderson and Sony also have their business model for this absolutely humming – this is the fifth film in a series of six, all of them made for around the $50-70m mark and all making around three times their money back. They seem to spend little to no money on advertising, the core audience shows up every time and everyone from Anderson to Sony's bankers goes home happy.

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