|Directed by:||Nimród Antal|
|Written by:||Alberto Marini, Christopher Salmanpour|
|Starring:||Liam Neeson, Lilly Aspell, Jack Champion, Embeth Davidtz, Noma Dumezweni, Arian Moayed, Matthew Modine|
|Released:||September 21, 2023|
As a fan of Jan de Bont’s box-office smashing 1994 hit Speed, I like the idea at the heart of Retribution. A successful American businessman, Matt Turner (Neeson), is driving his two kids to school in Berlin when he is called from an unknown number and told by a voice-masked individual that the car will explode if any of them leave it. A quick check using his mobile phone, which grabs a picture of a bomb beneath the driver’s seat, confirms the threat to be genuine.
Over the next hour or so, the villainous phone caller asks Matt to drive around the city streets and complete a series of errands. If he fails to comply or tries to alert the authorities, they will be killed using a remote detonation switch. His task becomes increasingly more difficult after Matt is incorrectly identified as the main suspect in a series of other crimes and the police are on his tail. Can he find a way to get help and extricate he and his family from the car without tipping off his potential assassin?
Pitched as an action-thriller with a splash of dark comedy (“think of it as a profound life experience”), Retribution lacks credibility and thus, it’s hard to see audiences on the edge of their seats. The further it goes, the less sense it makes. The interplay between Matt and his kids doesn’t ring true (everyone is far too calm) and the villain’s ideas and subsequent media/police reaction fall into place far too neatly. Nothing is as phony as the rushed finale.
While it feels like a padding-the-back-account flick for Liam Neeson (Schindler’s List), the sole member of the cast who does impress is Tony Award nominated actress Noma Dumezweni (The Little Mermaid) as a shrewd, level-headed detective trying to piece the unusual puzzle together. It’s a shame her character isn’t introduced earlier in the film given the personality and sincerity she brings to the role. Other recognisable cast members include Matthew Modine (Full Metal Jacket) and Embeth Davidtz (Matilda) but their full acting skills are rarely called upon.
A few moments work, highlighted by a scene where Matt parks beneath an underpass and authorities plot a course of action, but these are few and far between. Retribution has early promise but stumbles to the finish line.