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  • Benjamin May

Retribution (2023) Review

Some films are so bad they’re good. Tommy Wiseau’s ‘The Room’, or Claudio Fragasso’s ‘Troll 2,’ are hilarious because of their ineptness, and are therefore really entertaining. Others are less enjoyable, but have redeeming qualities, such as the striking visuals in Alex Proyas’ overblown ‘Gods of Egypt,’ for instance. Then, there are films that are just awful, with nothing to offer the viewing audience beyond boredom and disappointment.

Nimród Antal’s ‘Retribution’ is one of the latter. An unoriginal slog, the film follows Matt Turner, a financier and family man. One day, while driving his children to school, he notices a strange phone ringing beside him, and answers it. The caller turns out to be an anonymous fiend, who tells Turner he has placed a bomb under his seat that is triggered by pressure plates and a radio frequency. The caller demands that Turner follow his instructions to the letter, otherwise the bomb will be detonated; sending Turner and his children on an explosive ride through the streets of Berlin.

It is, essentially, ‘Phone Booth’ meets ‘Speed,’ with a dash of Steven Knight’s ‘Locke,’ but is no way as fun as that combination sounds. A dull remake of a much better film, Dani de la Torre’s ‘El desconocido,’ Antal and screenwriter Chris Salmanpour fail to make the venture exciting, thrilling or in any way engaging. Salmanpour’s dialogue is so stilted and full of exposition it makes that heard in Robert Lorenz’s ‘The Marksman’ sound like Shakespeare. The narrative is predictable, featuring a twist so obvious it may make your eyes actually roll.

Furthermore, the characters involved are all stereotypes with little to no personality. Turner is a wet-blanket, who is difficult to root for, while his children are breathing cliches. Secondary characters are no better, and everyone involved acts without logic or common sense. How the film was greenlit for production, considering it is so boring as to be qualifiable as a sedative, is astounding. It plays like a cheap TV movie from the 90’s or early 00’s: forgettable, monotonous and hardly worth the time one has to invest in watching it.

It is an unexceptional, tiresome picture in every regard, featuring passionless cinematography from Flavio Martínez Labiano, which does nothing to aid proceedings. He makes Berlin- a notoriously interesting location- look flat and dreary, while his utilisation of shots and angles is conventional and uninspired. Similarly, composer Harry Gregson-Williams seems to be just going through the motions: his bland score reflects a lack of interest in the subject matter.

Moreover, Steve Mirkovich’s editing is mediocre, if not downright poor. Mirkovich has cut some films brilliantly in the past: his work on ‘Con Air’ created tension and momentum, as it did on ‘Big Trouble in Little China’ and other projects. Here, though, he fails to generate the fast pace required for a thriller to work. The film plods along at a pace that would irritate a snail, going glumly from scene to scene with little to no energy or drive.

In fact, the only half-decent aspect of the film is star Liam Neeson’s performance. Neeson does solid work, but Turner is a role that requires nothing from him, and he appears as bored as his audience at times. In the last few years, he has been making dodgy career choices, seemingly lured by big paycheques and nothing more. Although one can’t fault him for wanting to make a bundle for relatively easy work; this might mark the nadir of his career thus far, and might actually hurt his bankability.

He should have avoided it like the plague, as should prospective viewers. Alongside Neeson, Jack Champion and Lilly Aspell, starring as his children, do forgettable work, while Noma Dumezweni does the bare minimum as a Europol agent on Turner’s tail. Also, slumming it in a thankfully small role, is Matthew Modine, who is over the top when he isn’t wooden, and seems embarrassed to be associated with the project at all.

At the end of the day, Nimród Antal’s ‘Retribution’ is a boring waste of time. Based on an exciting film from Dani de la Torre, something was lost in translation when screenwriter Chris Salmanpour penned his adaptation, as there are no thrills, tension or entertainment value whatsoever in the finished product. Although Liam Neeson does solid work, this may be one of the most mundane, unexciting films he’s appeared in- and in the last few years, he’s been in a lot. Featuring nonstop nonsense and nothing more; this film is so forgettable, you might actually forget it as you’re watching it.


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