If ever the rule of diminishing returns could be demonstrated with ease, it’d be by pointing at the latter-day career of Liam Neeson. An endless string of straight-to-video action embarrassments that fail to live up to his heyday. Luckily, with Nimród Antal’s Retribution, things are a little different. Instead of being an unstoppable, murderous brute, he plays a man with no history of hyper-masculine adventures at his wit’s end just trying to survive.
When beleaguered financier Matt Turner (Neeson is forced by his disgruntled wife (Embeth Davidtz) to drive his kids to school instead of attending to business, he is caught up in a scheme by a mad bomber. Trapped in his car with his two children (Lilly Aspell and Jack Champion), he has to follow increasingly terrifying demands from his tormentor or terrible things will happen.
Retribution is a pretty substantial improvement over Neeson‘s last few outings. Instead of once again pitting an increasingly visibly aged action star against a string of younger heavies, Retribution sees Neeson play Turner as a distracted, almost helpless father, but is it actually good? It’s good enough. While Embeth and Davidtz do look far too old for their kids, both of them turn in decent performances in this competent if unexceptional thriller, which is directed without a wasted minute. The kinetic camerawork works well to establish the parameters of the story, and although incredibly predictable, it’s all satisfying in its own modest way.
Should you see Retribution? If you enjoy thrillers for their sheer pace and enjoy trying to stay ahead of their writers’ plotting, then watching this film is the equivalent of a nice afternoon episode of Countdown: You can take satisfaction in being ahead of the participants, but enjoy watching them compete anyway.
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