The Retaliators is a bloody, intense story about vengeance set to a soundtrack composed of screams, breakdowns and an overdose of testosterone.
The whole movie could be described as a hyper-masculine rock opera. The moral of The Retaliators is as simple as the title; Retaliation against the sinful is warranted, even appropriate.
The film is bookended with two scenes that both see the lead, Michael Lombardi’s Bishop (a priest) engaged in confrontation. In the opening, Bishop doesn’t stand up for himself and allows a mean stranger to steal his family Christmas tree. In the closing, Bishop gleefully punches the daylights out of the primary aggressor.
The Retaliators: “Maybe It’s Better To Keep Evil Alive”
The thematic center of The Retaliators feels tacked on, and it’s not exactly Shakespeare. Thankfully, there’s enough sick riffs and badass combat for you to forget about the mind-numbing lack of depth. But before getting into what works about this bizarre, screamo thriller, we need to talk about the misogynistic underpinnings of the film.
All of the female characters in The Retaliators are effectively props that exist only to service the men in the film. One particular character may as well have had “fridge me” tattooed on their forehead from the moment they entered the frame. Fridging, for those unaware, is the practice of killing off a female love interest purely to drive the male lead’s development.
What’s truly frustrating is that The Retaliators had all of the tool’s necessary to deliver interesting, complex female characters. If the approximately 90 minute runtime was beefed up by 10 or 15 minutes, the story would have the length to develop characters other than Lombardi’s Bishop and Marc Menchaca’s Detective Jed. Stronger character work and a slightly bolstered runtime would have made for a far stronger, emotionally resonant project.
The Retaliators: Trigger Warning SA
Now, to be clear, I thoroughly enjoyed my viewing of The Retaliators. As a longtime fan of musicians like Craig Mabbitt of Escape The Fate and Spencer Charnas of Ice Nine Kills, I couldn’t help but grin ear to ear while watching their brutal cameos. Ivan Moody (Five Finger Death Punch) was entertaining, but his character was introduced so late into the film that I had difficulty engaging with him.
Jacoby Shaddix (Papa Roach) play’s Quinn Brady, a violent criminal who tortured, sexually assaulted and murdered dozens of women. Shaddix has the meatiest role of any of the musicians in the cast, and his performance was solid. Unfortunately, creepiness can only carry one so far if the writing’s not up to par.
Quinn Brady is a disgusting, horrible man, and with a few more scenes, I could really have grown to hate him in a good way. Unfortunately for Shaddix (and the audience), Brady is introduced in a flashback and given very little to work with in the present day. This antagonist left me feeling nasty and uneasy, but ultimately unimpressed.
The best part of the film is hands down Marc Menchaca’s Detective Jed. Fans of the hit Netflix original series Ozark will recognize Menchaca as the actor behind the season one antagonist, Russ Langmore. If you’re familiar with the series, I don’t need to tell you how incredible Menchaca’s acting chops are. His arc may seem by the numbers at first, but by the time the third act rolls around, your head will be spinning from the twists and turns. Whether or not that level of whiplash is desirable is a matter of personal taste, but it worked for me.
The Retaliators Shines Through The Darkness In The Third Act
The third act is really what makes The Retaliators worth watching. A horde of zombies (sort of, it’s complicated and spoilery) is unleashed, and blood pours down like rain. When the violence is cranked up to eleven, and the guitars are chugging alongside the bloodshed, The Retaliators is an absolute blast. I certainly wasn’t expecting to see a priest fight zombies on a motorcycle this October, and that counts for something.
The Retaliators isn’t inclusive, nuanced or particularly smart. The film sends some questionable messages about vengeance and the use of violence. As a critic, a non-binary person, and a lover of cinema, I would argue that The Retaliators is not a great film.
All of that being said, I would implore you to watch The Retaliators and make your own decision. The hard rock soundtrack and the over-the-top climax can’t be found anywhere else in modern cinema, so I have to praise how unique The Retaliators is in the modern Hollywood landscape. If nothing else, this is a fun, crazy movie with standout scares and gory special effects, and I almost always enjoy consuming media which fits that bill.
THE RETALIATORS OFFICIAL SYNOPSIS
“In THE RETALIATORS, an upstanding pastor uncovers a dark and twisted underworld as he searches for answers surrounding his daughter’s brutal murder. A high-octane original soundtrack and cameos from some of the biggest names in rock music set the tone as this horror-thriller reveals a game of revenge played using a new set of rules.“
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