All style but no substance is always best characterized Paul W.S. Anderson's directing efforts. In his new movie, RESIDENT EVIL: RETRIBUTION -- the fifth installment in the lucrative series -- continues his similar trend of filmmaking style. Suffice to say, whoever expecting Anderson to learn a thing or two about cohesive structure will be left disappointed.
But the movie does show some striking potential -- at least in the first 15 minutes. From the minute one, Anderson dazzles the viewers with an innovative opening credits sequences that runs backwards and in glorious slow-motion, showcasing the explosive attack on the Arcadia by a swarm of missile-launching helicopters. It's certainly an attention-grabbing opener, and Anderson continues to strike gold with the following scene involving Alice's (Milla Jovovich) hallucinatory zombies outbreak in a daylight suburbia. For a while there, Anderson shows some credibility in crafting expertly-staged suspenseful moments rarely seen since his EVENT HORIZON (1997). After a few quiet moments in the Umbrella Corporation where Alice finds herself being held captive and slowly tortured for information by her old friend-turned-brainwashed Jill Valentine (Sienna Guillory), the movie jolts back to vivid life when a system reload allows her to escape (together with a S&M-like skintight suit). She subsequently enters into a simulated Tokyo city at night and gradually being chased by a number of Asian zombies. Again, Anderson makes great use of slow-motion to depict a highly-stylized fight scene. No doubt they are all cool stuff. Of course, if only Anderson continues to maintain that creative momentum for the rest of the movie, RESIDENT EVIL: RETRIBUTION could have been hailed as his most entertaining entry in the series.
Unfortunately he loses steam so fast that the subsequent running time is awfully formulaic. From here on, the action -- chase, fistfights, shootouts -- are repetitive and executed in the utmost conventional way possible (Is it because Anderson has exhausted all the budget in the first 15 minutes?).
What about the plot? Let's just say Anderson has seemingly thrown away his previous scripts he has wrote for four RESIDENT EVIL movies, jumbled up all of them, and ends up as a patchwork of half-realized ideas. So whoever who are looking for coherent structure to tie back what happen in the previous movies, are best to left their brains at the door and enjoy the mindless ride instead. Oh, wait -- even the word "enjoy the mindless ride" isn't enough to warrant this as a solid B-action picture.
As for the cast, they are basically the same old stereotypes. Even the presence of Li Bingbing in her first Hollywood role as Ada Wong is particularly wasted here. Her textbook-like line delivery in English is simply wooden, while Johann Urb's performance as the fan-favorite Leon Kennedy is reduced to a thankless role.
Likewise, Anderson concludes the movie with an open ending that seemingly promised for something big will happen (the sixth installment is reportedly will be his last series). Let's just hope the sixth entry in the future will be truly his last in the series.