Film Review: Retribution (2023)

Not even a bit of Noma Dumezweni can save Liam Neeson on the dullest autopilot in would-be thriller Retribution

“There’s someone on the phone telling him what to do”

You know the formula by now, when it comes to Liam Neeson’s latter-day films. He’s a man with children who are in some kind of mortal danger and we watch him try to save them. Retribution sort of has its own spin on things – his Berlin-based financier Matt Turner is taking his teenage son and young daughter to school in his car when a hidden phone rings and a disguised voice tells him there’s a bomb under his seat which will go off if he gets up – dun dun duuuhhhh.

And so we watch them drive around for 80 minutes as the voice makes various demands and a twisted scheme begins to emerge, leaving people in other cars in danger too. But you’d barely know it from the sleepy-eyed lethargy with which Neeson plays Turner – it would be a choice for any film but for one where the vast majority of the shots are of him in the driving seat, it is excrutiatingly, punishingly dull, even when it is defying any normal sense of logic.

Directed by Nimród Antal with a good for an explosion or two at least, and written by Chris Salmanpour from the Spanish film El desconocido, there’s the occasional hint of something worthwhile here – we discover that Turner isn’t the best husband or father and so there’s some emotional purchase on the relationships in peril here, but nothing that really amounts to anything of note in the end.

The glorious Noma Dumezweni shows up halfway through as Europol agent Angela Brickmann, first on the phone and then in person, but it pains me to say not even she can save the dreck that is this part. I’m often more than happy to suspend disbelief for the sake of plot shenanigans but the utter lack of sense in Brickmann’s actions is insane as she is forced to constantly suspect him as the bomber so that the narrative – such as it is – can drive forward. You’ll wish the bomb had gone off rightaway.

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