Film Review: The Retaliators is a bloody revenge flick that indulges in the gross physicality of violence

Aiming to exist on the same surface as Death Wish, with a little Robert Rodriguez-like gore on hand to really enhance its nasty spirit, The Retaliators is a bloody revenge flick that doesn’t quite land on even footing, but proves for fine genre escapism for those that have the stomach and appreciation.

After a violent, blood-splattering opening that initially confuses us as viewers, The Retaliators introduces us to its lead player, Bishop (Michael Lombardi), a somewhat hip pastor who’s raising two daughters on his own.  When he gets into a bit of a vocal spat with a local over the ownership of a Christmas tree, he expresses his aversion to violence and sets the bully on his way, ultimately using this altercation as material in his latest sermon.

Given what eventually befalls Bishop this decision to choose words over brutality is rather ironic, but we need to get to a certain point where the apparently harmonious pastor is pushed to his limit – and screenwriters Darren Geare and Jeff Allen Geare have a wicked amount of fun in getting to that point; well, as fun as onscreen brutality can be.

Thanks to the barbaric actions of the intimidating Ram (Joseph Gatt), who brutalises another in a drug deal turned sour and stuffs the beaten body in the trunk of his car, Bishop’s daughter, Rebecca (Abbey Hafer), is unintentionally put in the crossfire of Ram’s violent gaze when she sees the aforementioned beaten body at a gas stop and makes a run for it.  Unfortunately her quick exit only raises further suspicion for Ram and he chases after her.  You don’t have to be a genius to garner what happens to the poor girl and why Bishop is then directed towards a more violent, avenging path.

Of course, Bishop doesn’t quite have the resources to work on his own, so the introduction of Jed (Marc Menchaca), a detective, allows such a plot line to come to fruition in a more organic way than may be expected.  By no means does The Retaliators come across as a natural movie, but you have to give the film props for making an actual law enforcer the brains behind finding such a figure as Ram, compared to a simple pastor who, up to this point, has never even thrown a punch in self defence.

Once Bishop and Jed join forces The Retaliators indulges in the gross physicality of violence, and, surprisingly, it’s not just Ram that’s on the receiving end.  The film opts to pad out its storyline with the inclusion of some underground depravity, and whilst it certainly lets the creative team have fun with gory makeup, it doesn’t really add much to the film’s narrative, which is also a little mixed on its message regarding using violence as an answer.  We’re initially told that violence is never the answer, but so much of what takes place begs to differ, and whilst a horror film such as this shouldn’t have its word or morals taken as gospel, it doesn’t help the film’s overall structure.

That being said, The Retaliators succeeds at being a gloriously gory good time in the realms of the revenge subgenre. Its low budget hasn’t stifled its creative possibilities and both Lombardi and Gatt turn in fine performances, with their opposing moralities providing a welcome contrast.

THREE STARS (OUT OF FIVE)

The Retaliators is now available to rent and/or buy digitally through Apple TV+, Prime Video, YouTube and Google Play.

Peter Gray

Film critic with a penchant for Dwayne Johnson, Jason Momoa, Michelle Pfeiffer and horror movies, harbouring the desire to be a face of entertainment news.