The Retaliators


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

The Retaliators
"Easy come, easy go entertainment for those who want to enjoy a bit of violence and still feel good about themselves." | Photo: Courtesy of FrightFest

There are so many films out there about men who are transformed by quests for revenge after their female relatives suffer violence that they could practically be a genre in themselves – in one year, Eye For Film found that they made up over 4% of all films which got a major UK cinema release. The Retaliators, however, seems to be conscious that this is a problem. Whilst it might be accused of trying to have its cake and eat it, a more generous view would allow that it is endeavouring to question the format and search for a middle ground which acknowledges the intensity of the emotions involved but acknowledges the problems with treating vigilante violence as a valid solution.

The film, which screened as part of Frightfest 2021, opens with a shopping trip. Mild-mannered pastor John Bishop (Michael Lombardi) is buying a Christmas tree for his family but a stranger steps in and takes the last one, which he thought he had already secured. At the behest of his family, John confronts the man, but backs off when no apology is offered. The man takes the tree but John is confident that his own behaviour went as far as it reasonably could, and that he remained true to his principles.

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It does not occur to him to take the matter up with the person selling the Christmas trees. At no point in this film does anybody make a serious appeal to external authority. It’s as if its characters think they are still living on the frontier.

Flash forward. John’s teenage daughter Sarah (Katie Kelly) is attending a party. He worried about her going because, seen from this frontier perspective, the world is full of dangers, but in the end he respected her wishes. Unfortunately for her, she falls foul of a killer (played by Joseph Gatt, whom viewers may recognise as a Then from Game Of Thrones – there’s nothing like typecasting). What follows is, refreshingly, not a sex crime, but it still doesn’t end well for her, and her father is distraught. This is where the story really begins, wasting no time in getting on with the action.

If you had the chance and could be confident that there would be no consequences, what would you do to the person who has hurt you most in life? That’s the question John is forced to confront when he comes into contact with an underground group bent on affording its members the opportunity for revenge. His answer isn’t quite what you might expect, and it certainly isn’t what the man running the group expects. Perhaps he’s smart enough to suspect a trap – but by that time, its jaws may already have closed. He’s certainly morally trapped from the moment he sees what this group has been doing to people – but the damage done is already so severe that they are, at least at an animal level, much more dangerous than they ever were before.

The retaliators boasts a no-hold-barred rock music score and features cameos from numerous band members, so fans can have fun trying to spot them and will be amused by the way some of them ham it up as tortured criminals. Directors Samuel Gonzalez Jr and Bridget Smith lavish the film with Fulci-esque degradation to the point where it requires serious suspension of disbelief to accept that any of these people could still be alive, but we’re well into fantasy territory by this point, so you’re either willing to play along or you’re not. Unsurprisingly, scenes of carnage follow. There’s not a lot of point to them, nor much that’s visually innovative, but they’ll be sure to serve their purpose for fans of gore and violent chaos.

With an ending which suggests a lesson learned but, shall we say, very much at the elementary school level, this is easy come, easy go entertainment for those who want to enjoy a bit of violence and still feel good about themselves. It may come on like a tough guy but essentially it’s undemanding fluff.

Reviewed on: 31 Aug 2021
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The Retaliators packshot
An upstanding pastor uncovers a dark and twisted underworld as he searches for answers surrounding his daughter's brutal murder.

Director: Samuel Gonzalez Jr, Bridget Smith

Writer: Darren Geare, Jeff Allen Geare

Starring: Michael Lombardi, Marc Menchaca, Joseph Gatt, Katie Kelly, Abbie Hafer

Year: 2021

Runtime: 97 minutes

Country: US


Frightfest 2021

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