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. 

Better Noise Films

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.

Michael Lombardi
Marc Menchaca
Joseph Gatt

Samuel Gonzalez Jr.
Michael Lombardi
Bridget Smith

Darren Geare
Jeff Allen Geare

14 September 2022

Posted by Jim Reader

Jim is a London-based journalist who has worked for a number of titles, including Bizarre, Vogue, Boxing News and the Daily Sport. He graduated from the University of Nottingham in 2009 and became a Master of Research in American Literature in 2010.

One Comment

  1. […] lo-fi, grindhouse aesthetics of similar (but arguably superior) revenge movies like Death Proof or The Retaliators. Whether or not Blake-Thomas brings something new to the conversation or merely adds to its noise […]

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