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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Wednesday, Nov. 26, 2014

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Bingbing Li and Milla Jovovich in "Resident Evil: Retribution."
Bingbing Li and Milla Jovovich in "Resident Evil: Retribution."

"Resident Evil: Retribution": bad movie, good times

Last week, I reviewed a movie called "Branded," a terrible little film about evil corporations, narrating space cows and evil blob monsters made of brands. Despite these seemingly ridiculous elements, however, the movie is somehow no fun at all. Every time I explained "Branded"'s plot to people, I would have to keep repeating "It's not as hilarious as it sounds."

"Resident Evil: Retribution," on the other hand, is just as hilarious as it sounds. It's one of those magical movies that manages to do so much wrong but in the best, most entertaining ways possible.

The somehow fifth installment of the undying "Resident Evil" franchise continues the adventures of Alice (Milla Jovovich) as she attempts to take down the ludicrously diabolical Umbrella Corporation (they don't seem to understand that no one can buy your products if everyone is dead).

After an admittedly slick opening credits sequence followed by a far less slick five-minute montage of exposition to explain what happened in the last four films (it doesn't help anything make more sense), it's back to the back flips and machine guns as Alice must escape an underground Umbrella lab in snowy Russia. She, as well as the rescue team sent to save her, must fight their way through multiple waves of bad guys, a few of which include former teammates gone bad (including Michelle Rodriguez and Oded Fehr).

Not since the first-person shooter sequence in "Doom" has a movie so resembled a video game on screen. The first half of the film solely involves Alice moving from room to room, killing zombies. Level one is Umbrella's well-lit headquarters. Level two is rainy Tokyo, which ends with a boss fight against not one, but two beasts with massive spiky hammers. It's OK, though, because Ada Wong (Bingbing Li) fights along side Alice. Two-player co-op!

Most of the accidental fun of "Resident Evil: Retribution" comes in these early action scenes when the movie has almost no discernable story or characters and is just a collection of video game levels that must be beaten. Jump attack! Reload! Double kill! Time for a vehicle section! Get to the checkpoint! Uh oh, Nazi Zombie mode! The movie even has a holographic map screen that occasionally pops up to show our heroes' progress. All that's missing are little health bars to show how much life our characters have and if they have any health kits.

The mindless action could be genuinely exciting (tomanandy's throbbing techno-synth score certainly helps, minus one part that is an identical copy of Zimmer's "Inception" score), but besides the change in location, every fight looks and feels the same. The only exception is the last fight scene, which feels longer and far more tedious than the others.

It's hard to feel like much is at stake either. Alice seems to have an endless supply of clone lives so dying isn't really a concern, and the story establishes that everything is just a simulation. Maybe. The plot, fumblingly doled out in brief moments of dull exposition (which comprise almost all of the dialogue), makes almost no logical sense.

The acting doesn't help the audience care much either, though it does make for some good laughs. Even after four movies, Jovovich doesn't look comfortable as Alice (though I don't know how comfortable I'd be in that skintight mess of spandex and belts that she's wearing throughout "Retribution"). The script tries to give her a little girl to care about, but she's an afterthought. Plus, it's hard to believe Alice really cares when she only has two facial reactions: pensive confusion and the angry "what smells?" face she puts on during action scenes.

The comedic triumph of "Resident Evil: Retribution," though, is Sienna Guillory. The British actress, decked out in an absurd purple jumpsuit and a mind-controlling silver necklace, says every line with the same emotional passion that one has for their socks. She doesn't even look right in the action scenes, squatting into unconvincing poses while shooting her guns like she's personally pushing the bullets out.

It's hilarious non-performances like Guillory's that make me think if the "Resident Evil" series continues (and it really doesn't have to. Seriously, Screen Gems, you can stop making these movies anytime now), it should go in the direction of self-parody. "Retribution" shows it has the chops for comedy, at least of the unintentional variety.

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