Content Caution

Retribution 2023


In Theaters


Home Release Date




Paul Asay

Movie Review

City driving is just the worst. The congestion. The inconsiderate drivers. The bomb strapped under your seat.

Admittedly, the latter is a new aggravation for Matt Turner—and he certainly didn’t need his morning to get more explosive. His entire family was running on a pretty short fuse as it was.

His wife, Heather, wants Matt to take the kids to school just this once. She’s had it up to here with his workaholism and inattentiveness. Matt’s son, Zac, has been skipping school to spend time with his girlfriend, and he’s none-too-happy that Dad’s playing chauffer today. And with Zac and his little sister, Emily, squabbling over every little thing in the back seat … well, it’s enough to make a harried dad go boom.

But then a phone starts to ring. It’s not Matt’s phone. The kids insist that it’s not theirs, either, and they’ve certainly never seen their mom use the thing. Matt (perhaps believing the phone was left in his car by the phone fairy) answers it.

“There’s a bomb under your seat,” the voice on the other end says.

So there is. Matt reaches down and feels the contraption—and just like that, the morning commute has gotten even worse than usual.

The mysterious caller tells Matt that the bomb is armed with a pressure plate. If he or his kids get out of the vehicle, the SUV will explode. The caller adds that he is holding his own trigger as well. And unless Matt does exactly what the caller tells him to do, he’ll push the button. The only hope Matt and his kids have of making it through the morning alive is complete, utter obedience.

“Think of this day as a profound life experience,” the caller says.

Positive Elements

The caller is not, as you might imagine, a person in whom you can put a lot of trust. But when he says that Matt’s going to go through a “profound life experience,” that’s right on the money.

When Matt gets into the car, his family feels like it’s falling apart. He and his wife seem perpetually annoyed at one another. His son is in the midst of outright rebellion. His young daughter suffers the bumps and bruises of this familial vibe as best she can—but all that family strife isn’t doing Emily any favors, either.

But impending death has a way of quickly reordering one’s priorities. Matt doesn’t log too many miles in his bomb-rigged car before he realizes that he’s not been a particularly good husband or father. He understands that whatever else he’ll have to do, he wants his children to be safe. And while Matt can’t make up for all that lost time in one potentially lethal commute, he does own up to his mistakes and apologize to Heather for his inattentiveness.

Matt’s not the only one who experiences a change of perspective. Heather realizes that she still kinda cares for that big ol’ lug in the driver’s seat. Zac realizes that his dad’s not the ogre that Zac made him out to be. And Emily—well, she shows some impressive maturity throughout the film, even encouraging Dad when he needs a little pick-me-up.

Spiritual Elements

Matt is an investment manager, and he tries to reassure a jittery client that the man’s sinking investments will rise again. “Protecting the rain doesn’t count,” Matt says, reminding the client of an adage he offered years ago. “Building the ark does,” the client echoes back (oblivious to the fact the adage, when you think about it, doesn’t make a lick of sense).

Later, when the caller asks Matt to do something truly heinous, Matt mutters, “May God forgive me” a few times as he steels himself for the act.

Sexual Content

Heather asked Matt to take the kids to school because, she said, she was meeting a friend. That was a lie, apparently: She was meeting a divorce attorney.

As mentioned, Zac has been sneaking off with his girlfriend for some time.

Some street protestors wear slightly revealing outfits. One woman in a car wears a top that displays some cleavage.

Violent Content

Oh, and that woman I mention above is in a bomb-rigged car. She’s in the passenger seat and struggling with a man—a fellow investment manager at Matt’s company—who’s in the driver’s seat. He wants her to stay put so they don’t blow up. She wants to leave because reasons. A police officer spies the struggle and (concerned for the women’s safety) tells the woman to step out of the car. And … things get messy.

Matt’s own car (parked nearby, because the caller wanted to make sure that Matt knew he wasn’t playing games) is spattered with what looks to be mud from the explosion … but it’s possible the grime is more organic than we’d like to imagine.

We see other cars explode as well, leading to other fatalities. (The local news media calls the culprit a “serial bomber.”) One blast sends shrapnel into another vehicle: a piece of metal juts out of a little girl’s leg (requiring a makeshift tourniquet), and she and others have their faces sliced and bloodied. A gun is pointed at someone. Law enforcement officials throw someone down on the ground as they arrest him. A motorcycle runs into the back of a vehicle that suddenly skids to a stop, knocking its rider off.

Crude or Profane Language

Four f-words, about five s-words and a handful of other profanities, including “a–,” “b–ch,” “h—” and “p-ss.” God’s name is misused a half-dozen times, including twice with the word “d–n.” Jesus’ name is abused four times.

Drug and Alcohol Content


Other Negative Elements

“You’re a credit to capitalism,” someone tells Matt. But while he might take that as a compliment, others are not so sure. Zac accuses his father of being a first-class liar, telling his clients that everything will be just fine with their investments when the reality seems to suggest otherwise. He talks someone into staying with his investment strategy, even when the client would clearly like to cut his losses. And we do hear that the company Matt works for may have a “slush fund” of some sort—a reservoir of cash that might easily be misused. While Matt seems to take his stewardship of his clients’ money seriously, some of his business partners may not.

Zac, and to a lesser extent, Emily, treat their father disrespectfully.

[Spoiler Warning] We hear that Matt looked the other way when he learned of some of his company’s shady dealings. The caller keeps his primary motives secret for a time, but we ultimately learn that the scheme is a nice, get-rich-quick program, where he’s planning to steal investors’ money and skip away.


Retribution’s plot is as simple as they come: Man drives around town with his kids in the hopes that a bomb doesn’t go off. If only the rest of the movie embraced such stark clarity.

For a film titled Retribution, there’s surprisingly little of it. Or is there? No, really, that’s an honest question. Is the caller looking to exact some revenge for an investment gone wrong? The movie would like us to think so … sometimes. Is the movie making some statement about capitalism itself? Well … maybe? Is Matt—played by Liam Neeson, the poster boy of 21st-century revenge dramas—looking to exact some retribution of his own? Many fans of Neeson’s previous work would say not nearly enough.

But for Plugged In, perhaps that’s a good thing. Retribution is rated R, but it’s a pretty light R, all things considered. The violence is not particularly bloody. The action isn’t particularly sexy. The language isn’t even particularly language-y, and with a little more restraint, the flick would’ve slid into theaters, easily, with a PG-13 rating.

Not that teens—or anyone else—need see this potboiler thriller. It manages to be both rather straightforward and quite confused. While it’s great that Matt gets to spend some quality time with his family, thanks to the bomb, I’d imagine that most other families could spend their own time together in higher quality ways—and avoid this bomb altogether.

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Paul Asay

Paul Asay has been part of the Plugged In staff since 2007, watching and reviewing roughly 15 quintillion movies and television shows. He’s written for a number of other publications, too, including Time, The Washington Post and Christianity Today. The author of several books, Paul loves to find spirituality in unexpected places, including popular entertainment, and he loves all things superhero. His vices include James Bond films, Mountain Dew and terrible B-grade movies. He’s married, has two children and a neurotic dog, runs marathons on occasion and hopes to someday own his own tuxedo. Feel free to follow him on Twitter @AsayPaul.