the retaliators | samuel gonzalez jr. | bridget smith | michael lombardi | darren geare | jeff allen geare | marc menchaca | joseph gatt | thriller | united states | katie kelly | abbey hafer | jacoby shaddix | brian o'halloran | shannan wilson | zoltan bathory
Film: The Retaliators
Directors: Samuel Gonzalez Jr., Bridget Smith and Michael Lombardi
Writers: Darren Geare and Jeff Allen Geare
Starring: Michael Lombardi, Marc Menchaca and Joseph Gatt
This is a movie that I got sent over as screener thanks to Justin Cook. Just a peak behind the curtain, I got this a little over a month ago. There wasn’t an embargo, but it was asked to hold off until closer to the date of release. I’m now giving it a watch. What is funny though is that I saw a trailer for it at the Gateway Film Center as well. Other than that, I did see the poster and read just a bit which piqued my interest.
Synopsis: an upstanding pastor uncovers a dark and twisted underworld as he searches for answers surrounding his daughter’s brutal murder.
We start seeing someone drop a body down a well. It doesn’t show us who was carrying it. From there, we shift over to a couple of young women in a van. We learn this is taking place in New Jersey. They decide to a take an unmarked road to avoid losing a day since it seems they’ve been traveling for some time. It becomes a nightmare for them when they get a flat tire. They’re attacked by someone who looks crazed. He isn’t alone though. The first person is killed and this bloody person opens the back of the van before they’re attacked by others. We then shift to the beginning of all this.
Sarah (Katie Kelly) is in a grief counseling group. I think this does a good job here as she zones out listening to another member as they tell their story. This is effective. What we learn is that she lost her mother and struggling. Her father is the local pastor, John Bishop (Michael Lombardi). Since what has happened to his wife, he is a bit more protective over his daughters. The younger one is named Rebecca (Abbey Hafer).
Now the movie gives an interesting interaction at a Christmas tree farm. John and Rebecca leave Sarah in line to pay for the one they picked out and another guy takes it. She is yelling at him which brings her father over. The guy, who is played by Brian O’Halloran, shoves him and is confrontational. John lets him take it, which bothers Sarah.
Their world is turned upside down once again with tragedy. John allows Sarah to go to a party. When she is getting gas, she has an encounter with a guy named Ram Kady (Joseph Gatt). We saw that he was at a drug deal, attacked the other guy and stole the product while keeping the money. At the gas station, Sarah hears the guy in the trunk. This causes Ram to tie up this loose end. Since the synopsis gave away that she is killed, this breaks John.
The detective on the case is Jed (Marc Menchaca). He has a similar past of tragedy. He sees himself in John and decides to give him the revenge that he sought previously. Going back once again to the synopsis, this leads John on a dark path. He has a decision to make that will change him forever. It also leads to secrets that Jed is keeping as well.
Now that is where I’m going to leave my recap as I don’t want to spoil things here. That gives you a good introduction to the basic plot and to the characters. Where I want to start is that we get an interesting character study here. I would say that most of that is focused on John, but I also think we get a look at Jed here as well. Since I’m going to avoid spoiling, I’ll do what I can to relay points in that confine.
I don’t recall if they say what happened to John’s wife and the mother of his daughters. Rebecca seems to be handling it better which could be due to her age. John seems to be in a good place as well. I think part of that he is a pastor. He has his congregation and his faith. That gets rocked though when Sarah is killed. I can’t blame him. Jed tells him to allow the police to do their work, but he can’t sit idly by. He needs answers. He isn’t expecting the offer that Jed makes. What I will say here is that he is faced with the choice that my friends and I have debated in the past. What would you do if someone hurt your loved ones and you get the chance to settle the score with them one on one. Most everyone says they’d hurt them. What this movie also brings up though are the repercussions of that. I’ll leave here the adage, ‘before you embark on a journey of revenge, dig two graves’.
Where I want to shift over to next starts with Jed. We see that he’s a tortured soul almost immediately after taking the case. He is drinking while watching surveillance footage. The movie then gives us his back-story through a flashback. This involves a criminal named Quinn Brady (Jacoby Shaddix). What is interesting though, we know that this guy was put away and then freed. He does something horrible. This then leans that he could be behind things happening now. What I will say here is that Jed, Quinn and these zombie like people from the opening are connected. What is happening there is quite horrific. It does feel borrowed from a popular movie in the 1990s. I don’t want to say to avoid spoiling. When you see it though, I think it clicks.
With all that explored, I do have a negative. I’m not sure if all the parts here mesh as well as the filmmakers wanted. This feels like we might have too many ideas that are interesting, but it is overly complicated. There is a biker gang that Ram has an association with. We have a drug deal gone wrong. There is this pastor that needs to tap into his darker side for revenge. There is a broken cop who might have snapped. We get a family tragedy and almost a monster movie in the end. Personally, I would have liked them to remove a subplot or two so this flows a bit better. It just feels disjointed with how it is put together. Don’t take this as I hated this as that’s not the case. They try to explain things that go on too long.
That should be enough for the story so I’ll go over to the acting. I thought that Lombardi was good as our lead. He seems like a good guy that wants to raise his family despite the tragedy that they’ve dealt with. I like the growth for his character from the beginning to the end. Menchaca was solid as this broken detective. I thought he played it well. I wasn’t expecting where he ends up. Gatt’s acting doesn’t add much, but he’s here for his size. He fit as well. I thought that Kelly and Hafer were both cute as the daughters. The former does show good fear with what happens to her. There are also a lot of cameos. For actors we have like O’Halloran, Robert John Burke and Robert Knepper. They were all fine. I’d bet they were all on set for a day. If you can get them, might as well. It doesn’t hurt anything except I know they’re good at what they do and would have liked more. There are bunch of cameos from musicians as well. I recognized Shaddix and Tommy Lee. There are more here for sure. I’d say that the acting is a bit over the top, but not enough to ruin things for me.
Last things to go into are all under filmmaking. In general, they are solid. I’d say that the cinematography was fine. There were times that it felt like a music video. This partially goes to the fact that they had access to these types of bands. I’ll say that it isn’t necessarily my type of music, but I think that it fit for what the movie needed. There were other times that how this was shot was on point. I’d give credit to the editing there as well. Other than that, I think the effects were good. There were a couple moments of CGI that I wasn’t a fan of. That dealt with mostly blood spray. One of which is a body part being chopped off and blood spurting. It wouldn’t work that way since the part spraying isn’t connected to the heart. That’s a nitpick though since this went practical with what they could. I was glad to see that here for sure.
In conclusion, I think that this is a solid movie and I’m glad that Justin reached out so I could see this. I like mostly what they’re doing here. We have an interesting revenge story that held my interest. This goes brutal with different things and doesn’t pull its punches at times. The acting is solid and the filmmaking aspects were as well. If I do have an issue though, they put too much into this movie so it overcomplicated it. I think they scale that back and just focus more on what was needed and this works better. I do appreciate the ambition. Not everyone will enjoy this though. I’d say that this is for fans of lower budget cinema or more into these modern ‘exploitation’ type movies.
My Rating: 6.5 out of 10
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