|25 august 2023
In Liam Neeson's illustrious catalog of action films after Taken, Retribution is a vehicle for suspense, a thriller with twists and turns that takes the audience on a bumpy ride of redemption and revenge. Although Lizm Neeson's gravitas and resolute attitude are put to good use, the journey is not without its bumps and detours, oscillating between heart-stopping excitement and moments of perplexing disbelief.
Directed by Nimród Antal, who has already demonstrated his talent for narrating tense situations in films such as Vacancy and Predator, Retribution is a remake of a 2015 Spanish film, El Desconocido. Liam Neeson plays Matt Turner, a high-flying banker living in Berlin. Turner's life is one of high stakes and high pressure. He skilfully convinces clients to stay with his company despite the financial turmoil. Yet despite his professional success, his personal life hangs by a thread, as he struggles to reconcile his career with his role as father and husband.
The film plunges headlong into suspense when Turner's seemingly ordinary morning takes a dark turn. A mysterious call from a disguised voice informs him that a bomb is placed under the seat of his car, ready to explode if he dares to step out. The stakes rise when he realizes that his teenage son, Zach (Jack Champion), and his young daughter, Emily (Lilly Aspell), are also captive passengers. From that moment on, the gas pedal is pushed to the floor, and Turner becomes an unwitting pawn in a dangerous game orchestrated by a malevolent force.
As the story unfolds, it's clear that Retribution relies solely on Neeson's performance to keep the audience interested. Liam Neeson's portrayal of Matt Turner is a blend of a weary father fighting against the odds and the steely determination he honed in his previous action roles. His chemistry with the young actors playing his children adds depth to the film's emotional core, as they struggle to cope with dire circumstances.
It's in the realm of suspense that Retribution disappoints somewhat. Director Antal's tight staging attempts to maintain palpable tension as Turner races against the clock, caught between cryptic voice instructions and attempts to outwit an unknown adversary. The use of confined spaces - mainly the car - reinforces the claustrophobic atmosphere and heightens the suspense. The fact that Antal manages to maintain the tension despite the film's restricted setting is a testament to his prowess as a director.
Retribution encounters several difficulties. The script, written by Christopher Salmanpour, sometimes wanders into predictable territory, and the film's twists and turns can be spotted from a distance. The revelation of the antagonist's motivations lacks the punch the film expects, resulting in a climax that fades rather than explodes. Characters other than Turner are painted in broad strokes, leaving much to be desired in terms of development. Embeth Davidtz, who plays Turner's wife, and Noma Dumezweni, who plays the police officer on his tail, deliver solid performances, but their characters remain under-exploited.
Retribution was supposed to be a roller-coaster ride of suspense, action and emotion, fueled by Neeson's undeniable charisma. It therefore disappoints and shows that Liam Neeson, an excellent actor, should turn to films that showcase his undeniable talent, rather than piling up B-movies and action films lacking in stature.
Retribution is certainly a film that fully embraces the thriller genre, offering adrenalin-pumping sequences and effective suspense, but the script's weaknesses are too numerous to make it a recommendable action film. The plot's lack of originality and the underdevelopment of secondary characters detract from its overall impact. Liam Neeson's commitment to his role and Nimród Antal's ability to keep the tension high don't make up for the film's many shortcomings.
Directed by Nimród Antal
Screenplay by Chris Salmanpour
Based on El desconocido by Alberto Marini
Produced by Andrew Rona, Alex Heineman, Jaume Collet-Serra, Juan Sola
Starring Liam Neeson, Noma Dumezweni, Lilly Aspell, Jack Champion, Embeth Davidtz, Matthew Modine
Cinematography :Flavio Labiano
Edited by Steven Mirkovich
Music by Harry Gregson-Williams
Production companies : The Picture Company, Ombra Films, TF1 Films Production, Studio Babelsberg, Vaca Films
Distributed by Lionsgate (United States), Roadside Attractions (United States, Canada and India), StudioCanal (France, Germany, Australia and New Zealand), Tripictures (Spain)
Release dates : August 23, 2023 (France), August 25, 2023 (United States)
Running time : 91 minutes
Viewed on August 26, 2023 at Gaumont Disney Village, Room 1 seat L19