Even up until the last decade, Liam Neeson was considered one of the staple action-thriller heroes. Years after the trajectory of his career shifted thanks to the massive success of the Taken franchise, a number of filmmakers tried to misuse his Irish temperament to create forgettable action flicks, and in the process, his acting prowess started to get grossly overlooked. Retribution, an entrapment thriller, falls into the same category, which, despite an interesting premise and central intrigue, falls flat in the final act by presenting ludicrous plot conveniences. The basic premise of Retribution mimics Joel Schumacher’s Phone Booth, but it misses every mark that made the former a classic. As a result, spending almost ninety minutes seeing Liam Neeson drive round and round Berlin becomes a metaphor for the aimless approach the makers of the movie were taking.
Who is Matt Turner? How Did He Get Himself Into the Entrapment?
Retribution begins with a person stepping out of his car and getting blown up along with the vehicle in a fiery explosion. The devastating opening sets the tone of the thriller and hints at the nature of the catastrophe to expect in the movie itself.
Viewers are taken inside the stately mansion in Berlin of middle-aged Matt Turner as he prepares to begin his hectic routine. Matt is the senior executive of Nanite Capital and shares a good, prolonged working relationship with the company’s CEO, Anders Muller. However, due to his workaholic nature, his relationship with his family is gradually deteriorating without him realizing the extent of it. The nature of Matt’s job demands guile and coercion, which is another aspect that his elder son Zach hates about his father, aside from the usual neglect due to work pressure. His wife Heather is going to visit her friend, which is why, almost as a once-in-a-blue-moon affair, Matt has to drop their two kids, Emily and Zach, off at school.
As Matt starts driving towards his destination, he gets an anonymous phone call and, from the other side, hears a distorted male voice threatening him not to leave the car or else the pressure plate-laced bomb underneath his seat will explode. Initially considering it a prank, Matt hangs up the phone, but the camera on his phone confirms the threat. Terrified out of his wits, he realizes that to save his kids and himself as well, he has to listen to the dictates of the caller.
What Does the Anonymous Caller Demand From Matt?
The caller rings again, and this time, he states that aside from leaving the car, any other effort to ask for outside help or call the authorities will result in him remotely detonating the bomb. Initially, Matt assumes a tailing biker to be the anonymous caller, but it turns out to be Zach’s girlfriend instead. Being under constant observation of the caller, Mike has to adhere to his orders, the first of which is going to a particular location where Mike’s business associate and colleague Sylvain has been entrapped inside a car similarly. The caller makes Matt watch over Sylvain’s fiery death from a distance to send the message that he is not fooling around. By now, Matt has been forced to reveal the bomb situation to his kids and has also learned about the fact that his marriage is going downhill as his wife is seeking a divorce attorney—both courtesy of the anonymous caller.
Bit by bit, the caller starts to ensnare Matt into a criminal conspiracy as he forces him to call Heather, ask her to withdraw an amount from his account, and hand over the money to a person at his dictated location. The ordeal turns out to be a set-up, as the authorities capture Heather, and Matt has to drive away from the spot. Matt suspects the caller to be someone related to his work, perhaps one of his disgruntled clients who is trying a crooked method to get back at him but fails to narrow it down to anyone in particular.
It is revealed that Matt’s company was haemorrhaging money, and the majority of its worth was stashed away in an offshore account. The caller assigns Matt to visit the CEO of his company, Anders, who is shown to be similarly trapped in the car-related hostage situation. The caller forces Matt to ask Anders to transfer the amount into his account, or else he will shoot him. A helpless Matt follows his orders, and to get a sadistic pleasure, the caller forces Matt to pull the gun on Anders. Matt finally pulls away, unwilling to take a life despite all odds, and sees Anders meeting the same fate as Sylvain—a fiery death. The caller asks Matt to forward the amount to his account and provides him with details on how to do so.
Did Matt Survive in the End?
Put into the toughest spot, Matt realizes that he is being incriminated and gets desperate to break free. He also understands that without him transferring the amount, the caller can’t do anything to him except blurt out empty threats. A desperate Matt drives through a tunnel where the signal disconnects, and as he continues to drive with police on his tail, a barricade has been set up at the exit. The entire city has been shaken up by the consecutive bombing incidents; the majority of the media and authorities consider Matt to be one of the perpetrators due to his presence at all the crime scenes, and Europol has arrived to create a blockade. Heather, who has learned bits and pieces about the bomb-trap situation from Matt (putting the call on mute), is present at the blockade as well. A representative of Europol, Officer Angela Brickmann, informs Matt that she is aware of the entrapment situation, but circumstantial evidence at the crime scene points to Matt being the suspect in the serial bombing case. She also states that the network coverage in the nearby vicinity has been shut down, which means remotely detonating the bomb is out of the question.
In the meantime, Emily had been hurt during the second car explosion that killed Anders, and Matt pleaded with the authorities to take his kids with them. Upon inspection, it is revealed that the bomb is fixated only on Matt’s seat, which allows the authorities to safely rescue Zach and Emily. Before taking his leave, Zach reconciles with his father. On the other hand, Angela suggests Matt allow the authorities to rescue him and accordingly surrender. Matt, desperate to find the person who made his life a living hell, evades the barricade and continues driving further. As the caller once again starts threatening him, he goads him into meeting upfront.
As the caller enters the car and reveals himself to Matt, it turns out he was none other than Anders himself, who faked his own death, tried a roundabout way to siphon out the money of the company’s investors through Matt, and incriminated him in the process so he himself could go scot-free and flee from the country. With their company on the verge of downfall, the villainous Anders was planning to escape by liquidating the company’s worth and escaping. Therefore, he took the drastic step of killing other executives like Sylvain to remove the possibility of the crime tracing back to him, faked his death, and incriminated Matt for all the crimes he himself committed.
Anders tries to force Matt into transferring the money, but with his kids’ safety ensured and nothing to lose, Matt has now become daring enough to improvise. With an enraged Anders sitting in the backseat, he drives furiously and deliberately collides with a river bridge guardrail in such a manner that the car topples sideways, and Matt hangs from his seat towards the river. While the doors of the car were removed to extract the kids, Matt detached his seat belt to directly fall into the river by also activating the seat pressure plate. Before even realizing what just took place, Anders is blown to bits, and Matt momentarily survives after getting caught in the explosion. As he swims ashore, Europol arrives in search of him, and as Retribution ends, the news updates reveal that, by explaining Anders’ role in the situation, Matt has managed to clear his name as well.
Did Matt Finally Reconcile With His Family?
After being taken through hell and back during what’s possibly the worst day of his life, the first thing that comes to Matt’s mind is his family. Although he might not have betrayed the trust of his clients like Anders, his experience has made him realize that lately he hasn’t been reliable either, at least when it comes to family. Due to their prolonged friendship, he didn’t hesitate to look the other way when Anders was secretly involved in embezzlement; ironically, the same person didn’t hesitate to threaten Matt with his kids’ and his life just for the sake of money. On the other hand, all his family needed was his presence and attention, which he was unable to provide because he was too busy to chase the bag.
During Retribution‘s ending, Matt emerges from the water, and it almost seems he has become a changed man who will look forward to rectifying his past mistakes. The kids might find it easier to reconcile with their father, as they have connected with him during the most perilous situation of their lives, but whether Heather finds it in herself to accept Matt in her life again remains to be seen. What matters is that Matt’s experience will push him to make efforts in the right direction, whether he succeeds or not.