Retribution is an ordinary action movie that takes no risk, offering little reward. The film is produced by Studio Canal, directed by Nimród Antal, starring Liam Neeson. This review will be short, thankfully, much like the one hour and thirty-minute runtime of this flick.
Retribution isn’t the worst action movie, but it’s safe to say it’s the second-worst action movie of 2023. I’m looking at you, Fast X. Expectation will dictate enjoyment. If you’re buying a ticket for a Liam Neeson, European produced action thriller in 2023, you know what kind of mediocrity you’re sitting down for. So with that benchmark in mind, Retribution is a safe bet if this is your thing.
Reading “Directed by Nimród Antal” at first promises something outside the box, (I like his direction on Predators and even Metallica: Through the Never). The film starts off a little too awkwardly as we quickly get to know the dysfunction of Matt’s (played by Neeson) family. Matt’s interaction with his family feels unnatural in an attempt to display an aloof and distracted, workaholic father and husband. Heather (Embeth Davidtz), Zach (Jack Champion) and Emily (Lilly Aspell) each have their whirlwind interpersonal conflicts. This happens in the first ten minutes of screen time before getting into Matt’s car, where the real story begins.
Retribution’s next thirty minutes is a surprisingly tense and a sharp left turn for Neeson’s type cast. Matt is not the steely nerve, tough guy, conflict veteran that we often see Neeson playing. Instead, Matt is vulnerable and anxious – shaken to his core and unable to keep it together for most of the first act. Desperate to wake up from this nightmare scenario and keep his children safe while keeping as many of his professional secrets as possible. This is both suspenseful and enjoyable, but not enough to save the rest of this movie.
Once the second phase of this story kicks in, we’re quickly thrust back to the trite formula that is direct to DVD European produced action movies. Supporting characters (Matt Modine and Noma Dumezweni) are both unbelievable and unmemorable. The action is straightforward and offers nothing new. The last half of Retribution is a predictable and underwhelming snooze fest. It betrays everything the filmmakers have attempted to set up, while reminding us that Neeson hasn’t aged well as an action hero.
In theatres now, Retribution slides in as a 4/10 entry into Neeson’s filmography and, to be honest, you’re better off waiting for it to to show up on Netflix.