Retribution Reviewed by GREG KING
Director: Nimrod Antal
Stars: Liam Neeson, Embeth Davidtz, Matthew Modine, Jack Champion, Lilly Aspell, Noma Dumezweni, Arian Moayed.
This claustrophobic action thriller combines elements of Speed with any one of half a dozen of Liam Neeson’s formulaic angry vigilante hero films of the past decade. A B-grade thriller, Retribution is nonetheless one of the better examples of the recent slew of action movies featuring Neeson.
Neeson plays Matt Turner, a workaholic financial analyst for Nanite Capital, an investment firm run by the pushy and demanding CEO Anders Muller (Matthew Modine). He has worked for the company for 18 years and has been one of Muller’s most trusted trouble shooters. Turner and his family live in luxury in Berlin, but he and his wife Heather (Embeth Davidtz, who appeared opposite Neeson in the Oscar winning WWII drama Schindler’s List) seem to have grown distant especially given how is consumed by his work. The pair have two teenaged children – daughter Emily (Lilly Aspell, from Wonder Woman, etc) and Zach (Jack Champion, from Avatar: The Way Of Water, etc), who are increasingly aware of the tension between their parents.
When the film opens Muller pressures Matt to negotiate with a client who has grown nervous and wants to pull out of an investment. While driving Emily and Zach to school a distracted Matt works his charms on the client and finally convinces him to remain with the firm. Then he receives a call on an unknown mobile secreted in the car. An electronically distorted voice informs Turner that he is sitting on a pressure sensitive bomb planted under his seat. If he or his children attempt to leave the car the device will be remotely detonated. Turner is told to follow instructions and drive to various locations around the city. He soon learns that he is being implicated in a series of bomb attacks.
Who is the mysterious person behind this threat? And why is he after a pile of loot stashed away in a secret Dubai bank account? Matt has little choice but to follow instructions until he can figure out a way out of his dilemma and turn the tables on his unknown caller and save his children. Meanwhile he has become the target of a manhunt by Europol, the law enforcement agency of the European Union and determined cop Brickmann (Noma Dumezweni)
Retribution is actually the third remake of the 2015 Spanish/French co-production of the same name, and screenwriter Christopher Salmanpour (the tv series FBI: Most Wanted, etc) reworks the original concept from Alberto Marino and ratchets up the ticking clock-like tension effectively. Retribution has been slickly directed by Hungarian filmmaker Nimrod Antal (Predators, etc) who maintains the claustrophobic pressure cooker tension for much of the film’s 95-minute running time. The film is let down slightly by its overcooked and silly climax. The film has been nicely shot by cinematographer Flavio Martinez Labiano (Jungle Cruise, etc) who makes the most of the Berlin locations and streetscapes.
Neeson’s role here is much more suited to a man of his age; rather than beating up on men half his age here he spends most of the duration strapped to his car seat and yelling belligerently down the phone at the mysterious assailant who has threatened him and his family and who seems to be setting him up as the fall guy for a series of lethal bomb blasts that have rocked the city. He delivers a strong and expressive performance that effectively taps into his gruff, angry screen persona and he growls his lines with appropriate menace. Davidtz is largely wasted with her thankless and underwritten role as Heather and is given little to do beyond looking and sounding concerned. Both Aspell and Champion are good as the concerned siblings who worry about what is happening and Turner’s actions.
Ever since 208’s Taken, Neeson has proven his action hero chops many times over, so it’s probably about time to give him a gig in the next Expendables movie alongside those other superannuated action heroes.