Arrow Video Frightfest 2021 – Film Review – The Retaliators (2021)

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A broken man of god struggles to turn the other cheek. Unlike a pole dancer after enjoying a playful bum slap from Tommy Lee from Mötley Crüe.

Yes, it’s that kind of movie.

Lone parent pastor Bishop, whose name must lead to much denominational confusedness, fails to defend his Christmas tree from someone probably big in the rock music industry. Preaching that violence is not the answer to conflict, he soon changes his theological tune when one of his precious daughters becomes collateral damage in the local meth war.

Empowered by the most hilarious anger montage in recent memory, he is offered the opportunity for cold-hearted, consequence-free, cathartic revenge. 

Will he repair his damaged belief system in time to gift wrap a tacky bracelet or simply smack the living fuck out of stereotypical biker gangs and feral sex offenders?

Stamped with more vanity project hallmarks than should be tolerable, this unapologetically literal exploitation flick bludgeons its way into your affections more by accident than design. Fumbling constantly for tonal consistency, with a clumsy backloaded pace ethic, The Retaliators counters these issues with an unpretentious enthusiasm and higher than needed production values.

Directed with untamed verve and obvious skill by Samuel Gonzalez Jr. and Bridget Smith it will definitely find a cult following among the B-movie and edgy rock music crowd.

The impossibly loud soundtrack alone, featuring Five Finger Death Punch, Papa Roach, Escape the Fate, and many, many more will prove an irresistible draw for a hefty fan base. Shrewd marketing and relentless shoehorning it may well be, but it galvanises the movie and bullies the senses like a boss.

Once you realise The Retaliators is not taking itself too seriously it’s a breeze to become complicit in its cartoon sandbox of apple pie churchgoers, disillusioned cops, and generic biker goons. Witness the cliche carpet-bombing boxing gym scene and its descent into silence for true tongue-in-cheek (calm down Tommy Lee) genius.

The acting is occasionally patchy as you might expect from such a cameo-laden project. But to be perfectly fair, it is exceptionally well-performed on the whole.

Michael Lombardi, as the pissed-off pastor, knows exactly what he has signed up for and wisely opts to ham it up by channeling his inner Ash from The Evil Dead. His main foil Marc Menchaca is just as brilliant here as he was in John Hyams’ majestic Alone. His sociopathic Sam Elliott embodiment is well-pitched and a pleasure to watch.

Sylvia Young Theatre School graduate, ex-Royal Marine, and Kratos from God of War Joseph Gatt is genuinely superb as the film’s primary focus of evil. He is an imposing yet nuanced actor and is clearly having the time of his life spitting salty one-liners and committing casual heartless violence.

Abbey Hafer also deserves a mention as Bishop’s surviving daughter Rebecca. A young actress clearly on the cusp of a breakout performance. That may well come with the director Bridget Smith’s upcoming gamer flick Finding Christmas or indeed Dead Remains, the much-anticipated debut feature from paranormal personality Nick Groff.

The gore is juicy and mostly practical with some inventive deaths and an engaging old-school ethos. If you find the carnage a little too insipid at first then stick with The Retaliators. It does eventually hammer the bat-shit button for a blood-drenched full send final reel.

Armed with a relatively fresh thematic plot twist, fans of extreme Asian cinema may be familiar with, the film’s overriding intention is to please genre fans. In doing so it forges its own schlocky identity and retains a significant portion of artistic dignity.

Deserving of its imminent cult status The Retaliators is a post-pub cinematic bulldozer that refuses to do anything other than ram entertainment down your throat, while Tommy Lee spanks your buttocks.



Crime Drama, Revenge Horror | USA, 2021 | 97 mins | Dirs. Samuel Gonzalez Jr. 
 & Bridget Smith | With: Michael Lombardi, Marc Menchaca, Joseph Gatt, Katie Kelly, Abbey Hafer

MONDAY 30TH AUGUST 2021- 10.45 & 11.10 AM