by George Wolf
Retribution marks the third remake of the Spanish thriller El desconocido, just in the 8 years since the original’s release.
What is it about this bandwagon that has made it so tempting to jump aboard?
If the latest version is any indication, it’s most likely the easily digestible stakes amid a standard thriller framework that offers plenty of room for tweaks without altering the chances for purely surface-level satisfaction.
So when you’ve got such a ready-made template for an English language thrill ride, the Neeson hotline is sure to be lighting up.
But this time, Liam plays Matt Turner, a banking executive living in Germany whose particular skills mainly involve ignoring his wife Heather (Embeth Davidtz), son Zach (The Way of Water‘s Jack Champion) and daughter Emily (Lilly Aspell, young Diana from the Wonder Woman films).
Matt picks a bad day to begrudgingly take the kids to school, because a disguised voice calls to tell Matt his car has been rigged with bombs. And the bombs have been rigged with pressure plates under the seats that will trigger those bombs if anyone gets out of the car.
So, what does the caller want? Is it just a ransom demand, or maybe revenge for some bad investment advice that wiped out a client’s life savings?
Shut up and drive!
Director Nimród Antal (Machete, Predators) tries his best to bring some style to the automobile setting, grabbing any opportunity he can for a new POV angle or mirror reflection. His instincts are understandable, but the approach often lands as just showy desperation.
Neeson’s on phone-yelling/time racing cruise control. But, the kids are good and both Matthew Modine and Noma Dumezweni (The Little Mermaid) provide strong support with limited screen time.
No one in the cast is given much chance of character development from Christopher Salmanpour’s script, but you can expect a surprise or two while he makes some promising edits to the original mystery. And though the final showdown does shake off a very Scooby-level unmasking to eventually better El desconocido, any hopes for mining something meaty from this derivative premise are erased when the film all too eagerly reverts to “Liam defends his daughter” factory settings.
Time to put this one in “park,” it’s on E.