by Seth Troyer
Written by Geoff Thompson, a survivor of sexual abuse, Retaliation is a loosely autobiographical descent into the pain and violence that can come in the aftermath of trauma. Orlando Bloom steps up to this challenging material with surprising ease.
Any Lord of the Rings jokes you may want to make will be silenced within the first few minutes as you see Bloom fully embody the character of Malky. He has been tormented all his life by the memory of being molested as a child by a local priest.
Malky is a powder keg ready to blow, attempting to channel this energy into his construction job, demolishing dilapidated churches with vengeful satisfaction. Where the film truly amps up is when he realizes his abuser has returned to preaching in Malky’s hometown.
What follows almost feels like Ingmar Bergman making a John Wick film (in a good way, for the most part). Bloom and the film itself may not perfectly execute every complex maneuver they attempt, but they often reach heights that are undeniably moving.
Brothers Ludwig and Paul Shammasian are a competent directing duo, though they make some choices that threaten to turn the film into an exploitive, bass pulsing thriller that doesn’t suit the material. In addition, several characters—Malky’s girlfriend Emma (Jane Montgomery) among them—often feel less like characters and more like plot tools despite the actors’ best efforts.
In the end, what does shine through is the writer’s personal story, offering a brooding character study rather than a simple revenge thriller.
Thompson has stated on his website that, like Malky, he struggled with a thirst for violence and revenge. His demons are clearly being exorcised here.
The film’s intense conclusion, where Malky and his old priest finally cross paths, has been understandably divisive for audiences. Regardless, the questions this showdown raises are well worth discussing.
While you will probably never find a Retaliation DVD for sale at a Christian book store, the film’s sentiment seems far from atheistic. It unflinchingly condemns the corruption that can come from organized religion, but also appears to have a strange sort of reverence for the idea of God and biblical teachings. It’s a brutal concoction that makes for a fascinating and unique experience.