There is no such thing as a good action movie. If you've ever enjoyed simulated violence on screen, then you're a moron and probably someone whose kink is not okay. That's the message I took away from the fifth Resident Evil movie, which seems to be a concerted attempt to make an action movie so terrible, it will make you hate all action movies forever. Or possibly, just punish you for ever loving action flicks in the first place.

Spoilers ahead...

Resident Evil: Retribution is the most uninspired piece of garbage I've seen in ages — to the point where you start to suspect that Paul W.S. Anderson is doing this on purpose. In other films, Anderson has at least shown a basic competence, right? But not in this film.

In RE5, not only is there no story, per se, but also all of the action is shamelessly and ineptly cribbed from countless other action movies. There's crappy bullet time. There's lots of subpar somersaulting and landing in a crouch. At one point, Milla Jovovich tosses a gun clip in the air, and it magically levitates for about five minutes while she punches a ton of people, before catching it and using it to shoot someone else.

On top of that, every action sequence is exactly the same as every other action sequence. There are no "turning points" in the "story," and when something happens that might be intended to "heighten the stakes" or "ramp up the action," it feels like just another thing on the screen. None of the actors in this film even bothers to try and convey that any particular CG artifact is any different from all the others.


And finally, this film has CG and slow-mo that are so cheap and unsightly, it's hard to invest in anything that you see happening. You would not believe that two hours of Milla Jovovich gyrating in fetishwear in front of an ever-changing backdrop could be so boring.

The most interesting bit of CG/slow-mo film-making is actually the opening sequence, where — for no particular reason — Anderson decides to run an entire brief fight scene backwards in slow motion, just so you can see in painstaking detail how unreal and staged it all looks. At least, when you're watching it all backwards, the scene looks sort of lovely in its artificiality.


And like I said, by about half-way through, you start to wonder if maybe Paul W.S. Anderson is deliberately trying to punish us for something. As if he's realized he's going to fail to make a great action movie in any case — so he may as well fail spectacularly.

Or maybe he's using all the clichéd action and fake CG to make some point about how we are all responsible, in the end, for the existence of terrible movies like this one. The terrible CG becomes a mirror, in which we see our own distorted, leering faces. Maybe all of the fakeness is meant to rebuke us for allowing this movie to exist.

This isn't just me spit-balling. To the extent that Resident Evil: Retribution has a "plot," it's about everything being fake and terrible.


In a nutshell, Alice gets captured by the Umbrella Corporation, which sticks her in a testing facility where they have fake versions of four major cities. Basically, it's a bargain basement holodeck where they can simulate a zombie virus outbreak. Alice has to fight her way through these fake cities, battling the undead as well as various simulations. She only has two hours to get out of there before the whole place explodes, because her allies have set bombs. Oh, and the testing facility is underwater, under the ice, in Russia.

Because that's a really thin plot, the movie adds a subplot, which is also about everything being fake. In one of the environments, called "Suburbia," a clone of Alice is raising a little deaf girl named Becky. (They're both clones, implanted with fake memories, for use in this simulation.) The Alice clone is killed, and Becky winds up meeting the real Alice — and the little girl assumes that Alice is her mother, and that mom has randomly decided to wear S&M gear. Alice decides on the spot that she'll adopt Becky as her "real" daughter, even though all of Becky's memories of Alice being her mom are fake and implanted. (Really, what probably happened is that Paul W.S. Anderson watched Aliens and thought Newt was kind of awesome. Becky is basically deaf Newt.)


So for a lot of the second half of the movie, Alice's main motivation is to protect and rescue and save her fake daughter, even if it gets all her actual friends killed.

Meanwhile, I was vaguely intrigued in advance by the notion that there are two clones of Michelle Rodriguez in the film: a nice Michelle, and an evil Michelle. Unfortunately, this idea is tossed out there, and then nothing much is done with it. I was sort of hoping the two Michelles would fight at some point, but they barely get enough screen time for one Michelle Rodriguez, let alone two.


It's also true that the zombies can ride motorcycles now. This isn't really explained in the film, and all it really does is erase the distinction between the zombies and the Umbrella Corp soldiers.

There's no retribution in Resident Evil: Retribution. Unless you assume, as I did by the end of the film, that the retribution is against the audience. In which case, that title makes perfect sense.