Paul W.S. Anderson’s Resident Evil films are notoriously ridiculous “adaptations” of the popular Capcom video game franchise. Each film in the series is progressively sillier than its predecessor. By the time the fifth installment, Resident Evil: Retribution, rolled into theaters in 2012, the series had gone completely bonkers.
The Resident Evil films feel more like franchise fanfiction than adaptations of the source material, which works fine in Retribution. Nearly every major character from the video game series is dropped into an underground Umbrella Corporation facility meant to simulate several international cities, as well as a suburban setting. Umbrella designed the compound to test the effects of the T-Virus in a controlled environment, so there are zombies, Lickers, and other monsters everywhere for hero Alice (Milla Jovovich) and her team to fight.
The first half of the movie plods along, alternating between CGI-laden action sequences and exposition about Umbrella’s evil plan, which has something to do with cloning. There are clones of characters that died in previous Resident Evil installments, clones of Alice – the whole facility is lousy with clones. Since they already drained the clone plot well dry in Resident Evil: Afterlife, getting the story going feels like a real slog.
Then, in a moment of sheer insanity, the movie picks up and takes off. Franchise fan favorite Leon Kennedy (Johann Urb) and his strike team are attacked by Soviet zombies in the recreation of Moscow’s Red Square. The Soviet zombies are dressed in full military regalia and appear through a wall of smoke, with the officers carrying rocket launchers and riding in Jeeps. It’s gloriously silly and shatters the film’s previously self-serious tone.
The sequence reaches its peak with a chainsaw-wielding zombie coming after Leon, a massive grin plastered on his undead face. The zombie cuts through squad member Tony (Ofilio Portillo) in a shower of blood before getting shot down by Luther (Boris Kodjoe).
Thankfully, that’s not the end of the Soviet zombies and their ridiculous reign. Alice zooms into action in a decked-out Rolls Royce complete with spinner hubcaps and begins a car chase sequence through the Red Square. This time, we get double the rockets launched, a motorcycle-riding zombie with a machine gun, and a giant Licker! The chase is a blast from start to finish and injects the movie with some much-needed fun.
The Resident Evil films work best when they’re at their most hyperbolic. When the series tries to be serious and evoke emotion, the results are mixed at best and hollow at worst. When the series goes balls-to-the-wall with goofy concepts and massive explosions, it shines. The Moscow sequence is the best example of Resident Evil leaning into its campy nature and running with it. It’s a total blast that rescues the movie from itself and leads it into a satisfyingly stupid third act. The movie ends with the series’ surviving characters standing atop the White House, looking down over a massive zombie horde. It’s ludicrous, but since Resident Evil jumped the shark four movies prior, it works. Dasvidaniya, zeds.