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Movie Reviews : Beware of This Frighteningly Tedious 'Retribution'

October 29, 1988|CHRIS WILLMAN

"Retribution"--it almost sounds like what you'd get if you crossed tribulation with refund, doesn't it?

Let the horror buyer beware: This not-so-horrific "Retribution" (citywide) is stingy on scares and lo-o-o-o-o-ong on ersatz character development, and it comes with no money-back guarantee. Vengeance is mine, sayeth the critic, but other suckered thrill seekers will find little recourse for their own retribution besides initiating the inevitable bad word of mouth.

The picture's ill-fated, nerdish hero, George Miller (Dennis Lipscomb), makes two mistakes right off the bat. The first is attempting suicide on Halloween night; the second is attempting suicide at exactly the same time a debt-plagued gambler named Vito is being burned and shot to death across town.

Just as the ailing George is about to "go into the light," his pathway into heaven is blocked by the grotesque image of Vito, who's hoping to hop a ride back to the material world in George's body in order to do some damage to his tormentors.

If this ghostly possession saga sounds reminiscent of other tales in which victims track down their own murderers from beyond the grave, rest assured that the haplessly plotted, hopelessly illogical "Retribution" makes a similarly themed story like "Point Blank" look like a masterpiece. (You say "Point Blank" was a masterpiece? All right then, it makes "Maniac Cop" seem like a masterpiece, for heaven's sake.)

Inexplicably, director Guy Magar, a TV cop-show veteran, and co-writer Lee Wasserman have humorlessly emphasized their hero's psychological torment as if this was serious stuff, not the hokum that it is. Thus, the gruesome gore scenes the audience presumably really came to see arrive only at approximate half-hour intervals--and even then free of any suspense, since we're never introduced to the victims until moments before their bloody demises.

The trying remainder of the 107 minutes is devoted mostly to the protagonist and his glamorous psychiatrist (Leslie Wing) agonizing to discover what we've known from the start: George is possessed all too infrequently and all too unintimidatingly by a ghost with a vendetta and glowing green contact lenses.

To paraphrase the rather inflammatory, misleading ad campaign of "Retribution" (MPAA-rated R): Don't get mad, get a rain check.

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