A businessman (Liam Neeson) is trapped in his car with his two kids by a mysterious caller who warns him that there’s a bomb under his seat that will go off if anyone tries to exit the vehicle. PLOT:
A businessman (Liam Neeson) is trapped in his car with his two kids by a mysterious caller who warns him that there’s a bomb under his seat that will go off if anyone tries to exit the vehicle.REVIEW: Remember when Liam Neeson said he was giving up action movies a few years ago? Many think he wasn’t being serious, but watching his latest, Retribution
, I’m almost thinking he was telling the truth as there’s so little going on here in the way of physical action that you could almost call this an “inaction” movie. Neeson spends a majority of the movie comfortably seated in his car. This makes it less demanding than the brawnier films that made him an action star late in life. I was fond of his recent film noir, Marlowe, and the recent thriller The Marksman wasn’t bad. But, too many of his movies, such as Blacklight and Honest Thief, have been assembly line. While Retribution has a better director than usual in Nimrod Antal (Predators), this is a disappointingly lame remake of the Spanish movie El Desconocido, which seems primed to be another box-office misfire for the actor.
One can’t blame Neeson for embracing the public’s desire to make him into the 21st century Charles Bronson, but I wish he’d choose better material, with his B-movies paling next to someone like Gerard Butler’s. He tries to stretch himself a little here, playing a ruthless businessman who is dismissive of his family. He ignores both his wife (Embeth Davidtz – who hasn’t aged since their last movie together, Schindler’s List thirty years ago), and his children. Both of them are used to being ignored, with his son (Avatar: The Way of Water‘s Jack Champion) openly hating him, while his daughter (Lily Aspell) is more understanding.
In the early scenes, Neeson seems meaner than usual, especially as he tries to hustle clients to please his boss (Matthew Modine – who appears to be having more fun than Neeson). The premise is that a client his company has apparently screwed over wants over $200 million in a secret slush fund transferred to him, or he’ll blow up the car.
After a promising start, Retribution goes off the rails when Neeson’s character, naturally, turns out to be wholly innocent of any misdoing. In the Spanish version of the film, the hero is more morally flawed. But Neeson has always been a good guy. It would have been nice if they had made him more ambiguous but I guess they did not want to turn off his fans. If
Retribution had a bit of good action, it would have been worth spending 90 minutes on, but it’s decidedly dull stuff. The twist is predictable, and Neeson appears bored once the premise has been introduced. There are some explosions and car crashes, but they’re not particularly exciting. If you’re looking for an action thriller, you’d be better off watching the original Spanish film. Jack Champion tries to give his character a bit of a arc, but the children are conveniently sidelined in the third act and Neeson seems to be on autopilot once they get out of the vehicle. Marlowe
was good, and The Marksman offered him a better-than-average role, but only a few of these movies are more than disposable B-movies. He’s not in a DTV-style rut yet, but a few more movies like Retribution or Blacklight might put him there. I understand that Neeson is aging, but he can still do a lot more. Even his hardcore fans will likely find Retribution just as uninspired as the title suggests.4