Retribution Review: A Decade of Generic Offerings

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Unveiling the Pursuit of Stardom and the Hopeful Quest for Another “Taken”

Retribution: Over the span of the last ten years, Liam Neeson has been consistently delivering a series of films that can be aptly described as largely generic offerings. These cinematic endeavors seem to lack a true raison d’être, existing primarily with the aspiration that one among them might replicate the unforeseen triumph of “Taken,” the 2008 thriller that unexpectedly catapulted Neeson into the echelons of global action stardom. Remembering even half of these films without consulting Neeson’s IMDb page is quite the challenge—an ordeal I suspect Neeson himself might share. However, the recent release of “Marlowe,” a cinematic creation helmed by Neil Jordan, hinted at a shift in Neeson’s artistic trajectory. In “Marlowe,” Neeson embodies the iconic detective character Philip Marlowe, suggesting a divergence from the mundanity of his roles akin to Charles Bronson’s ventures in the 1980s. Despite the results falling short of expectations, Neeson’s sincere attempt to employ his genuine talents for a fresh endeavor remains palpable.

“Retribution”: A Dismal Exodus from Promising Beginnings

Exploring a Cinematic Vacuum: Absence of Thrills and Purpose

Alas, in his latest venture, aptly named “Retribution,” the vestiges of promise glimpsed in “Marlowe” have been unequivocally extinguished. This film stands as a symbol of the void when it comes to excitement, thrills, and a coherent sense of purpose. Its very essence seems tailored for sparse audiences in nearly deserted multiplexes during the traditionally lackluster final weeks of summer. Within this recent cinematic pursuit, Neeson steps into the shoes of Matt Turner, an investment banker rooted in Berlin. His unwavering dedication to his profession has driven a wedge between himself and his wife Heather (played by Embeth Davidtz), as well as his offspring Zach (brought to life by Jack Champion) and Emily (embodied by Lilly Aspell). On a day that calls for him to ferry his children to school, a considerable portion of his journey is dedicated to placating a jittery investor at his boss’s behest (enacted by Matthew Modine) in a bid to shield their financial interests. However, as he inches closer to dropping off his children, an unexpected call is received from an untraceable phone nestled in his car. An altered voice conveys a disconcerting message: a pressure-triggered bomb is concealed beneath his seat, inadvertently activated upon his seating. A stark warning follows—any effort to disembark the vehicle will remotely detonate the bomb. Trapped with his children at risk and under the specter of an explosion, Matt finds himself coerced into executing various tasks while simultaneously delving into the identity and motives of his captor. As the relentless pursuit of the police, led by Noma Dumezweni’s character, ensues, Matt is pursued under the assumption that he’s the architect of the terrorizing plot.

Cinematic Echoes: The Foreign Remake Resonance

A Cinematic Tale of Iteration: Unveiling the Third Reimagining

Drawing parallels with Neeson’s recent action-centered endeavors, “Retribution” emerges as a remake of a foreign original. In a fascinating twist, it represents the third iteration of the Spanish thriller “El desconocido,” originally directed by Dani de la Torre and introduced to audiences in 2015. While my confession stands that I have yet to experience the earlier adaptations (including the 2018 German rendition “Don’t. Get. Out!” and the 2021 South Korean interpretation “Hard Hit”), the prospects of any of them being as persistently monotonous as this rendition appear to be bleak.

Scripting Missteps: A Void of Distinctive Content

The Formulaic Echo: Trapped in the Mundane

Regrettably, the script for “Retribution,” penned by Chris Salmanpour, is glaringly deficient in elements that could have elevated it to a realm of uniqueness or distinction. It comes across as if it was assembled from a template tailored for writers aiming to craft the most formulaic narratives conceivable. Regrettably, none of the characters manage to evoke any particular interest or likability. The portrayal of the children, in particular, becomes increasingly vexing, reaching a point where few viewers would protest if Neeson’s character chose to halt and stretch his legs for a brief respite. Director Nimród Antal’s treatment of the action sequences lacks the vital spark of excitement. Even the climactic revelation in the film’s closing scenes becomes glaringly transparent, probably deduced by the audience well before its revelation.

From Potential to Pitfall: The Devolution of Expectations

A Missed Opportunity: Squandered Potential on Every Front

Suppose “Retribution” had settled into the realm of ordinary direct-to-video releases—a platform where recognizable names are coupled with careers that haven’t quite fulfilled their potential. In that case, perhaps the film’s inherent shortcomings could have been more forgivable. However, this scenario doesn’t hold true. When Neeson is presented with material aligned with his skill set, he consistently showcases his prowess in delivering performances that resonate deeply. The talents of both Embeth Davidtz and Matthew Modine have shone brilliantly in past endeavors.

Beyond the Camera: The Players Behind the Scenes

Directorial Aptitude and Persistence: Untangling the Web

Director Nimród Antal is far from a novice in the field, boasting works such as the intriguing “Control” from 2003 and contributions to the popular series “Stranger Things.” Furthermore, there exist champions of his previous works, including “Vacancy” (2007), “Armored” (2009), and “Predators” (2010). This ensemble behind “Retribution” is undoubtedly packed with talent. It might indeed serve as a testament to their unwavering professionalism, if not their personal taste, that they continued their efforts on set each day—especially when the prospect of creating something even remotely tolerable seemed minimal.

An Ephemeral Impact: Fading Into Obscurity

An Inevitable Farewell: A Film Destined to Vanish

It is with conviction that “Retribution” falls short, destined to fade from collective memory as its theatrical run concludes in the upcoming weeks. The promotional materials for the film had promised an immersive experience—an adrenaline-charged thriller that would envelop audiences in a whirlwind of redemption and revenge. Regrettably, the film fails to deliver on any of these fronts. If you’re in pursuit of a thriller remake starring Neeson that truly merits your investment this weekend, allow me to wholeheartedly direct your attention to “Cold Pursuit.” Within this film, Neeson undertakes the role of a snowplow driver in a quiet Colorado town, harnessing his skills to dismantle a drug ring responsible for his son’s tragic demise. While it may not be a masterpiece, “Cold Pursuit” affords Neeson a platform for engaging performances. Its amalgamation of action, drama, and dark humor reminiscent of the Coen Brothers culminates in robust B-movie entertainment. By contrast, “Retribution” amplifies its squandering of time, effort, and energy to proportions

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