20th September 9900 2.44pm at Ciné Lumière
12th October 2015 1.00pm at BFI Southbank (NFT)
Redemption of sin may be the name of the game in Spanish director Dani de la Torre’s newest thriller, but there is very little to redeem the film itself from its supreme unoriginality. Retribution follows a man with a grudge as he enacts his revenge on the sketchy banker that screwed him financially; past the well-executed technical frills, essentially what we have is an impersonal, thinly written script and a lazy, half-baked attempt at social commentary that can’t really sustain itself much farther than the halfway point.
Big time banker Carlos (Luis Tosar) makes a fateful decision one morning, when he decides to help his stressed out wife and take their two kids, Sara (Paula Del Rio) and Marcos (Marco Sanz), to school, but soon receives a phone call from an ever-so-nonchalant stranger, claiming to have placed a bomb beneath the car seats that will automatically activate if anyone attempts to leave. What’s more, the bomber promises to remotely detonate the deadly device if Carlos fails to follow his precise instructions, transferring a huge amount of money to a designated bank account. Originally sceptical, Carlos is forced to face reality after his colleague’s car is blown up in front of them; with Marcos somehow injured in the blast, the situation – which all too easily could have been a very static affair – suddenly becomes a race against time to complete his task and get his son to hospital.
Retribution’s main flaw is the obvious nature of much of its plot. The motivation for the bomber’s actions can be seen a mile off, and the anti-corporate, anti-bank message is laboured upon far too heavily to be convincing – in any case, it cannot help but jar with the significant use of product placement. That being said, Retribution still positions itself a cut above many action movies, with strong acting all around. Despite the confinement of the setting, the three central characters give big performances, with their originally superficial and hostile behaviour to one another giving way to reveal solid, poignant connections and emotional depth. De la Torre should be commended for avoiding falling in to too many genre tropes, particularly resisting overloading on car chase scenes. However, much of the good work – thin on the ground to begin with – is irreversibly undone during the closing sequences; the conclusion of the predicament is unsatisfying, the fable-like message cannot deliver the impact it seems to believe it can, and a particularly horrendous “what happened next” sequence will no doubt leave viewers rolling their eyes.
Retribution does not yet have a UK release date. It is part of the Thrill competition at the 59th London Film Festival.
Watch the trailer for Retribution here: