Review by Sean Boelman
Every once in a while there comes along a film that is obviously made with the best intentions but are so mean-spirited that their message is lost in its anger. The Shammasian Brothers’ Retaliation fits that bill, turning what should be a tale of compassion and empathy into a forgettable revenge thriller.
The movie follows a survivor of sexual abuse as he finds his life thrown into disarray when he encounters the priest that traumatized him as a child. While there are some interesting ideas here about confronting one’s trauma in adulthood, in trying to make the film more entertaining, much of the authenticity in this regard is lost.
However, the movie largely fails at providing a truly thrilling or intense narrative. There are a few moments that are powerful or disturbing, but more often than not, it feels dull. Despite many attempts to be edgy, the film gets too wrapped up in the histrionics of these scenes to be particularly impactful.
Additionally, the movie is quite bleak in a visual sense, and that seems to be tied to the Shammasians’ apparent desire to make the film as gritty as possible. Still, by throwing everything into a visual style that is neither appealing nor fitting, the movie ends up being altogether unpleasant to look at.
The original title of the film was “Romans”, presumably based on the Biblical book that is referenced multiple times in the dialogue, but the message of the movie runs counter to the message of this scripture. Frequent bouts of anger and violence don’t exactly embody the idea of “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”
That said, there is one sequence at the climax of the film that is quite effective, almost as if writer Geoff Thompson built the rest of the script around this one pivotal moment. The dialogue in this portion is pretty great, teasing the emotion that could have come out of the rest of the movie had it taken a more original approach.
Perhaps the single best part of the film, though, is Orlando Bloom’s performance. Bloom is, quite literally, the only thing that keeps this movie going. Despite a story that keeps getting more and more ridiculous, Bloom completely sells every aspect of what he puts on screen, giving the film its only semblance of nuance.
Retaliation is a great example of a mediocre script bolstered by a talented star. Were it not for Orlando Bloom’s surprisingly strong bout, this would fade into obscurity along with most other faith-adjacent B-movies.
Retaliation is now available on VOD.