Man Up and Take Back Your Life with “The Retaliators” on Blu-ray! Click to Purchase from Amazon.
Having recently lost his wife, Pastor Bishop tries hard to keep his two school age daughters safe with an oversight thumb, but when his oldest daughter, Sarah, begs him for the car, God himself knows that the Pastor’s children can’t stay children forever. Bishop fears come reality when Sarah is chased by a sadistic man, ran off the road, and zip tied to her steering wheel as her car is pushed into a nearby ravine. Destroyed by another loss, there is seemingly no way out of the grief hole for the man of the cloth until a Detective, who once shared Bishop’s pain and suffering with a similar, personal experience, introduces him to his isolated former fallout bunker turned torture cabin in the woods with the man who killed Bishop’s daughter chained captive in the basement and next to him sits a variety of melee tools of affliction. Deeper into the Detective’s subterranean dwelling lies a more terrible, caged secret, one that is incidentally unleashed upon the world, and will wreak carnage upon the land and it’s up to the grin and bear it Pastor to take a stand against pure evil.
Frighting for yourself and for special persons in your life is crucial for any self-respecting person to be able to look at themselves in the mirror and say, “I did all I could.” Those who believe in understanding and forgiveness ultimately fall into being trampled on and biting the bullet because just surviving the other end of a contentious situation can be a false sense of security and an opaque veil to the ever-present dangers lurking in every crevice. The 2021 release of “The Retaliators” accouters that theme of following one’s combative conscious to protect what’s dear while also sporting a hefty amount of violence, blood, subhuman psychopaths, and a nearly all nu metal musician cast. Co-directed between from short and music video filmmaker, Samuel Gonzolas Jr., the film’s star and “Central Park” actor, Michael Lombardi, and music video director, Bridget Smith, “The Retaliators” aims to show an ugly, real truth that can affect and twist good men into the same abhorrence and villainy they’ve struggled to repel and resolve. “The Retaliators” mark the first screenplay from the Geare Brothers, Darren and Jeff Allen, is shot across various locations in the U.S., including states Nevada, New Jersey, and Connecticut, and is a production of Lombardi’s Better Noise Films with the company’s CEO, Allan Kovac, and Philly Born Film’s Mike Walsh also producing.
As a company that’s half part a music record label, the film was destined to showcase some of the independent rooted musical and elemental talent of the rock genre, but the narrative is convoyed by a fellow musician, who will humbly admit they are not trained or experienced actors, but rather actors who are rock artist sympathizers, in the case of principal leads Michael Lombardi and Marc Menchaca of Peacock’s new horror thriller “Sick” and who you may not have recognized in the third season of Amazon’s “Tom Clancy’s Jack Reason” as a high-and-tight, clean-cut naval captain. Menchaca is anything but burred cut as a bearded and wavy-haired, somber detective assigned to Pastor Bishop’s (Lombardi) case of his murdered daughter. Menchaca does his work in feeding off the dark energy cocktail of Lombardi’s grief, despair, and vengeance-stricken neo-pastor. Lombardi’s heartfelt performance definitely deserves praise for how one should react in losing a child and also reflects the helplessness that burdens the parent into a black hole of sorrow. As a character, Bishop struggles morally with seeping into and being swallowed by the grim circumstances gifted for him despite however the circumstances may seem to be in his favor. The gears Lombardi has to switch from a faithful person, to rancorous, to then finally a path of soul changing redemption goes smoothly enough to justify his position as principal lead. Menchaca’s demented detective almost feels left out to an extent, but the audience will get enough of a taste to satiate his unglued righteousness. While no love interest makes it into the fold of characters, the narrative does house spots for the nu metal and rock musicians in supporting or minor roles. Papa Roach’s Jacoby Shaddix, Mötley Crüe’s Tommy Lee, Ice Nine Kills Spencer Charnas, Escape the Fate’s Craig Mabbitt, From Ashes to New’s Matt Brandyberry, Lance Dowdle, Danny Case, and Matt Madiro, and Five Finger Death Punch’s Ivan L. Moody, Zoltan Bathory, and Chris Kael are just a select few of rockers you’ll see in “The Retaliator’s” lineup. Personally, I wanted to see more of Jacoby Shaddix as Quinn Brady, a homicidal madman in a horrific cat-and-mouse lark with the detective. Who knows, maybe we’ll see a prequel with Shaddix returning to the role. For the most part, like Shaddix, the musicians are well integrated with diverse roles that range from biker club, to strip club DJs, to bartenders, and to AA participants. “The Retaliators” round out the cast with Katie Kelly (“Deadly Seduction”), Abbey Hafer, Cree Kelly (“Aftermath”), and the massively built and scary-looking Joseph Gatt (“Titanic 666”) as the child-killer strapped and prepped for Pastor Bishop to physically and mentally break.
Better Noise Films is comparable to another divisional filmic offshoot of a larger parent music record label. Cleopatra Entertainment, of Cleopatra Records, often builds film structures and narrative plots around the company’s signed ensembles to promote and market their lyrical and thrash-heavy material as well as putting names to faces and thrusting them out into the world to those who may not have heard of their music. Aside from likely being a huge cost-savings benefit, these films are often scored by their artists, leading to a diverse sounding and electric soundtrack that typically works out less than desired. What the directors end up implementing, musically, yields result only half of the time while the other half is forced unto the audience for the sheer effect of promotion despite the off-putting composition. Not every intense scene needs a band backdrop to flourish raw emotion and pump up the blood but that’s what films, like “The Retaliator’s,” is bred to show off in a marbled genre that has categorical plot pivots all along the way to the grand finale of an all-out brawl, fight for your life skirmish with the criminally and tortured insane. That latter concept is perhaps one of the more interesting and original ideas of reinventing the psychopath that I’ve seen in a long time and the anticipatory excitement and thrills of their release to wreak havoc like barbaric rippers had found moments of great gore excess when Paster Bishop finds his divine strength to help the savage sadists meet their maker by way of machete, a shovel, and a woodchipper. “The Retaliators” make use of familiar horror tropes, such as the fog machine and a blend of lowkey and neon flushed lighting, to conjure an unconventional crypt of rock and homicide, putting its own unique stamp of indirect evil leading to up to another bigger, badder bedlam of things.
Chalked up to be an 80’s-stylized 90’s cinematic horror pulp, with early 2000’s soundtrack, “The Retaliators” arrives onto Blu-ray home video courtesy of Quiver Distribution. The AVC encoded, high definition, 1080p BD50 has a CinemaScope, aka anamorphic, widescreen 2.39:1 aspect ratio. The large storage formatted disc offers more variety as the capacity can handle the expansion of color and range of content. From complex, diversly lit, and heavily foot trafficked interiors to the great outdoors with trees fields, gravel terrain, and watery brooks, the quite a bit that’s going on looks pretty good on screen and the anamorphic widescreen doesn’t have that squeeze-it-in feel either but can’t escape a few scenes of lens flare. Details provide a tactile enamel, but the colors are quite soft with a lower dialed in color grading. The English DTS-HD 5.1 surround sound has more teeth in the soundtrack that overlaps and snuffs out any ambient sound design, essentially making “The Retaliators” a 96 minute, give-or-take a few scenes, music video. Dialogue doesn’t suffer the same backseat fate as the script-to-screen exchanges are in the forefront and though the soundtrack is a bit flat, the original, nebulous-electronic score in between by “Stranger Things” composers Kyle Dixon and Michel Stein does stand out to add a nice underlayer of questionability and suspense. Special features include cast interviews with actors and music artists speaking to their experience on the film, “The Retaliator’s” music video, and theatrical trailer. The physical release comes with a cardboard slipcover on the first pressing with a rendered pseudo-illustrated mockup of pyramid arranged character heads with Pastor Biship standing bloody and machete in hand right smack in the middle. The standard Blu-ray snapper includes the same cover arrangement art as the slipcover. Not listed on the back, the unrated film does support region A playback. “The Retaliators” pumps up the blood as well as the jams during an overhaul of one’s convictions in a baptism by hellfire.