The Retaliators (2021) Review
The Retaliators opens on a familiar note. Two women take a shortcut that isn’t on the map, only to discover that a flat tire is the least of their worries as what looks like zombified extras from a Wrong Turn film emerge from the surrounding woods. We’ll come back to this later.
Elsewhere, Pastor Bishop (Michael Lombardi, Rescue Me, Central Park), who we recognize from the prologue, has reluctantly agreed to let his daughter Sarah (Katie Kelly, Deceived by My Mother-In-Law, Deadly Seduction) go to a Christmas party where there might be boys present. Boys turn out to be the least of her problems because after stopping for gas at the wrong station at the wrong time she ends up being murdered by Ram Kady (Joseph Gatt, Titanic 666, Never Leave Alive) the local crime boss.
Having already lost his wife, the murder of his daughter turns Bishop from a passive man of God to a violent vigilante. It also brings him into contact with Jed (Marc Menchaca, Alone, No One Gets Out Alive) the detective assigned to the case. He seems like a no-nonsense cop, but he’s hiding a dark secret of his own.
The Retaliators is the work of two writers Darren and Jeff Allen Geare and three directors Samuel Gonzalez Jr. (Railway Spine, Battle Scars) and Bridget Smith (7th Secret, Sno Babies) with Michael Lombardi credited as “additional director” whatever that entailed. And they’ve certainly come up with an inventive, if far from plausible, film. But as long as it keeps moving, and tossing blood and body parts at the viewers, I don’t think they’ll mind.
And the makers of The Retaliators make sure there are plenty of opportunities for bloodshed. Bishop isn’t the only one who wants a piece of Kady, he’s double-crossed a biker gang and they want payback. But there are also those things we saw at the start of the film, the subhumans as they’re referred to. Whatever they are they’re dangerous and very hungry.
The effects are practical and well executed, although most of the real gore is saved for the final battle. The rest of the film does have a nasty, and sadistic tone to it even without it, however. Sarah’s death for example is bloodless but horrifying and is shown in flashbacks more than once. It’s when it starts to slow down and try to be serious that The Retaliators runs into problems. In particular, the scenes where Bishop wrestles with his faith should have been cut, they’re almost embarrassingly bad.
Much of The Retaliator’s publicity has drawn attention to its connections to various rock and metal bands. Honestly, that’s a bit overstated as we get a few musicians in small roles, most notably Mötley Crüe’s Tommy Lee as a DJ in a strip club. A couple of members of Five Flavour Fruit Punch, excuse me, Five Finger Death Punch turn up as bikers. Jacoby Shaddix from Papa Roach plays a rapist/murderer in a flashback. Spencer Charnas of Ice Nine Kills, the only band of the bunch I listen to, is supposed to be in it, but I didn’t notice him.
Despite its slower moments, The Retaliators delivers as a blood-soaked bit of entertainment that should end up on a lot of people’s list of favorite Christmas films. The final act, with Lombardi looking and acting like Bruce Campbell and Gatt looking like a cross between Dave Bautista and Michael Berryman alone, is worth seeing it for.
The Retaliators will be in Cinemas worldwide for a one-night event on September 14th, you can pre-order tickets on the film’s website. You can check the film’s Facebook page for announcements of when it will be available on VOD, Digital, and Blu-ray. And while you wait, FilmTagger can suggest a few similar films to hold you over.