Combustible Celluloid Review - Retribution (2023), Christopher Salmanpour, based on a screenplay by Alberto Marini, Nimród Antal, Liam Neeson, Matthew Modine, Noma Dumezweni, Jack Champion, Lilly Aspell, Embeth Davidtz
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With: Liam Neeson, Matthew Modine, Noma Dumezweni, Jack Champion, Lilly Aspell, Embeth Davidtz
Written by: Christopher Salmanpour, based on a screenplay by Alberto Marini
Directed by: Nimród Antal
MPAA Rating: R for some language and violence
Running Time: 90
Date: 08/25/2023

Retribution (2023)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Fraught Seat

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

With a simple idea, a handful of characters, and a compact running time, this speedy, high-concept action/thriller does its job exceedingly well, handily smoothing over any inherent ridiculousness.

Busy bank executive Matt Turner (Liam Neeson) has been tasked with driving his kids — teen Zach (Jack Champion) and Zach's younger sister Emily (Lilly Aspell) — to school. Zach and his father have a fight, and Zach reluctantly gets in the car. Matt takes some calls and does some wheeling and dealing, and then the family hears a strange phone ringing.

Matt finds the phone, answers it, and a sinister, distorted voice informs him that there is a bomb under his seat, activated by a pressure plate. If Matt gets out of the car, he and his family will die in the subsequent explosion. Matt must do everything the bomber says, which involves getting his hands on 208 million euros, or face the consequences.

Directed by Nimród Antal (Vacancy, Predators, Metallica: Through the Never), whose action-oriented B-movies are usually pretty solid, Retribution is a remake of a 2015 Spanish-language movie. Yet it borrows ideas from earlier movies like Speed, Phone Booth, The Call, The Guilty, etc. and mixes them up into a nifty new brew.

It's fun to see Neeson playing a less-than-honorable character with no idea how much he's neglecting and even dishonoring his family. He keeps asserting that he's done nothing wrong, but we don't really believe him. (It's also nice to see him teaming up with his Schindler's List co-star Embeth Davidtz, who here plays his wife.)

This friction between characters plays nicely along with the action. Antal keeps things moving at a good clip, building suspense with his use of space and speed in the traffic scenes. (The movie was shot, and takes place in, Berlin.) He also avoids going too far over-the-top, Fast X style.

Retribution has a bit of a disappointing ending with the mystery villain's big surprise reveal, but that doesn't detract from its pure entertainment value.

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