If your child was savagely murdered and you had the opportunity for vengeance, would you take it? This is the moral dilemma pastor John Bishop is faced with when Jed, a retired detective, kidnaps his daughter’s killer and manacles him in his cellar. Jed has only one rule: John is allowed his brutal and bloody revenge, but he isn’t allowed to take his prisoner’s life.
This is the narrative thread that holds The Retaliators together, but it’s a thin one. What begins as a tale of ethics and retribution, akin to Lady Vengeance, quickly sidesteps into the torture porn, crime thriller and ‘90s teen slasher genres. And that’s all before the script wildly nosedives into something between The Hills Have Eyes (2006) and The People Under the Stairs. For good measure, there’s a nu metal soundtrack, and Jacoby Shaddix and Five Finger Death Punch are on the cast (not to mention Tommy Lee as Strip Club DJ). One more thing: it’s set at Christmas, too.
In short, this odd farrago of scenes and influences rarely fits together. And it’s perhaps no surprise that The Retaliators has three directors in Samuel Gonzalez Jr., Bridget Smith and Michael Lombardi, all with, it seems, conflicting visions and agendas. Objectively, this picture is superficial and messy. But this doesn’t mean it fails to entertain. In fact, you could argue it’s brainless genius.
Reminiscent of ‘70s and ‘80s horror cinema — which was less self-conscious about subtext and more concerned with delivering the big kills for its bloodthirsty audience – The Retaliators is a wonderfully bizarre ride. Perhaps its biggest flaw is its underutilisation of Marc Menchaca (who is remarkable in the recent Alone). Everything else is as advertised. Just enjoy it. But don’t overthink it.
Samuel Gonzalez Jr.
Jeff Allen Geare
14 September 2022