Noisy Liam Neeson movie should have its driver’s license revoked.

Although “Retribution” is the American remake of a Spanish film called “El desconocido,” I still think it wants to go for “Speed,” which had a bomb on a bus that would detonate if it went below 50 MPH. This story is set in a car where the driver’s seat has a pressure plate that will explode if he gets out of his seat.

It’s the new Liam Neeson action movie that has its moments, but never really amounts to anything. It mostly goes for arguments, noise, explosions, car crashes, money transfers, deep voices, and whatever an action thriller needs.

Neeson plays financier Matt Turner, who lives in Berlin with his family, while dealing his company’s downfalls. His wife Heather (Embeth Davidtz) is on the brink of divorce, his teenage son Zach (Jack Champion) is cutting classes for a girl, and his daughter Emily (Lilly Aspell) won’t see him at her upcoming soccer game. And he’s trying to keep everything together or at least he wants to.

Matt drives his kids to school, but hears a phone ringing. It isn’t his or Zach’s or Emily’s. It’s a burner phone, and calling him is someone with a deep fake voice. He wants Matt to keep driving, stay in the car, and make some money transfers. If he or his kids leave the car, it will explode, because they are on a pressure plate. The one I mentioned a few paragraphs ago.

Matt asks him “Why is he doing this?” and “What did he do?.” But the voice tells him to follow his orders or else he will die, his kids will die, his business friend (Matthew Modine) will die, and a lot of people will die. This villain watches too many movies. Or maybe we watch too many movies, which is why we’re not completely interested. But we’ve seen a number of better and smarter movies.

And given the various explosions detonated by this mystery villain, Matt is accused of being the villain, and an agent (Noma Dumezweni) tells him to make it easy on himself. Especially since he has his kids in the car. But he’s willing to save them.

“Retribution” was directed by Nimrod Antal, whose credits include “Vacancy,” “Armored,” and “Predator.” His new movie does have some entertaining car chases and would be “Hurt Locker” scenes, but neither he or writer Christopher Salmanpour (TV’s “FBI’s Most Wanted”) could do anything fresh and daring with the original screenplay. In fact, the real identity of the villain is predictable, but I can’t say it here for your sake. You’re welcome.

The early scenes have to have the obligatory family arguments, with the son calling his dad Matt and accidentally injuring his sister’s finger. But when the father has to take their phones, as instructed by the villain, he has to tell them there’s a bomb in the car. That means the typical arguments come to a close. I wish I could say the same for last week’s alien movie “Landscape with Invisible Hand.”

The last two entertaining Liam Neeson action movies were “Widows” and “Cold Pursuit,” and they deserve more credit than they were given. He can do better than succumb to the predictability and cliches of his recent entries, but “Retribution” basically wants to be “Taken” meets “Speed,” and it doesn’t work.

Rating: 2 out of 4.

This article was written by me with full support of the SAG-AFTRA and Writers Guild of America strikes.

Categories: Action, Crime, Drama, Remake

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