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“The Retaliators” is a gritty and gory revenge film that may not be groundbreaking, but it’s certainly a hell of an entertaining ride.

A preacher descends into a violent underworld of gangland wars and corrupt cops in an attempt to confront the man that brutally killed his daughter.

The Retaliators starts with a bang, showing a violent and unexplained event that is later revisited (a device that is often used in TV shows like Supernatural, for example). It then rewinds to the initial setup of the happy family life of the main character Bishop as he shops for a Christmas tree with his daughters. While shopping, he is confronted by an angry customer (played by Kevin Smith’s Askewniverse alumni Brian O’Halloran) and sets an example to his children by turning the other cheek.

In his sermon later that day, Bishop talks about his encounter and that it was a teachable moment, through the words of the Lord. This plays into the person he is, and his wavering faith as the film continues and he is put through things that will shake his very belief.

After the sermon, Bishop’s eldest daughter heads off to a party, but witnesses something she shouldn’t as she fills up her car next to a ruthless gang member.

A chase ensues in which she calls her dad, panicked, telling him that she is being followed. The gang member gets to her and she is ultimately killed. The whole chase sequence very effectively creates some edge-of-the-seat tension.

The untimely death leads Bishop down a dark path in the pursuit of justice for his daughter’s murder.

With this train set in motion, there are a couple of sub-plots threading together with warring gangs and the lead investigator on the murder case, but it’s all relatively simple and doesn’t overcomplicate the bigger picture by trying too hard to be a thriller with lots of twists.

The pacing is great and consistent throughout, keeping the story moving and the action coming.

This makes for a couple of genuinely tense moments during the runtime, like the previously mentioned car chase, and plenty of bloodshed to satisfy the gore-hounds.

There are a handful of cameos from rock stars like Tommy Lee of Mötley Crüe, members of Five Finger Death Punch, and Jacoby Shaddix of Papa Roach, which will certainly help the film find an audience with the alternative crowd. It also means that the soundtrack is pretty heavily laced with rock music.

Stylistically, The Retaliators is dark and dreary, with washed-out color schemes to mirror the despair and gritty gang underworld portrayed in the film. It is also set at Christmas, so as the old movie debate goes, ‘does that make it a Christmas film?’ My answer would be yes! I’m a sucker for any kind of Christmas film, so setting a violent revenge story over the holiday period is a win for me.

(Sidenote: My opinion is, if you stick a Christmas tree in there somewhere, you can successfully call it a Christmas film.)

Ultimately, The Retaliators knows exactly what kind of film it wants to be, and it’s successful in its endeavors.

It seemed that not too many years ago, these types of revenge films were ten a penny with titles such as Taken and Law Abiding Citizen. As such, there isn’t really anything that breaks the mold here. However, these types of films are typically a lot of fun to watch, even if they don’t stay with you long after the credits roll.

To be fair, The Retaliators does take a bit of a sideways turn just over an hour in that certainly sets it apart somewhat from its predecessors.

There are also plenty of brutal kills utilizing buckets of blood that are a blast to watch.

I believe that with the peppering of rock star cameos, those fun kills, and the festive setting, THE RETALIATORS could be destined to become a cult favourite in the coming years.

Overall Rating (Out of 5 Butterflies): 3.5

The Retaliators made its world premiere at Arrow Video FrightFest on Monday, August 30th.

WRITTEN BY Peter Hayward-Bailey

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