Orlando Bloom delivers a flawless, and gripping performance, but alas the narrative does not quite meet his level of commitment. Retaliation is overwhelming with its religious symbolism and often scathing reflections of Catholicism, yet the “revenge” plot both underwhelms the audience and exceeds original expectations. Bloom plays Malky (Malcolm), a haunted demolition worker who takes on the task of demolishing the church that he was sexually abused in as a child. As the title suggests, it is a tale of revenge, a cathartic act, however, when he comes into contact with the priest who abused him, after 30 years, the mission takes a bit of a U-turn.
Retaliation is not ashamed to explore trauma and abuse in an honest and at times, severely uncomfortable way. Where the film lacks in character development, it heavily gains in unabashed vulgar dialogue and tone, which definitely conveys how Malky is suffering and the reality of his past trauma. With the camera mostly focusing on Bloom throughout the film, we are positioned to empathise with him, and become frustrating at the characters in his life that are unaware of his situation. Exploring Catholicism, the film hones in on the themes of judgment and guilt, and Malky’s mum, played by Anne Reid, in some ways personifies these feelings as she continuously suggests her disappointment in him and his work – “There’s a lot of churches. You won’t be able to knock them all down.”
As a survivor of sexual abuse himself, screen-writer Geoff Thompson, does not shy away from the severity of the crime at hand. Though the artistic decisions are visceral and hard to watch, Bloom impressively portrays the victim’s life story and puts his all into the role. Bloom surprisingly really suits the edgy, rageful role he plays in this film, despite his previous Hollywood acting life. He constantly displayss strength and ferocity in the various violent fight scenes, yet somehow retains the audience’s empathy and understanding throughout, with his delicate and impactful exploration of emotions, and notably his on-off relationship with his girlfriend (played by Janet Montgomery). Malky was a role Bloom could sink his teeth into, which enabled him to showcase his pure and raw acting talent – which was not always so blatant in his other movies, despite his cinematic fame.
Directors Paul and Ludwig Shammasian do not set out to satisfy the audience with a simple story of violence and revenge; instead, we are given a half-hearted (at times) plot which importantly discusses sexual abuse, but is so bold and aggressive with its approach, that it does lose its impact occasionally. The story constantly alludes to the impending violent demise of the priest who abused Malky, and as we are positioned with Malky and his struggles, we do start to yearn for that revenge too – though it also seems like the obvious plot point. However, the narrative does include some surprise, when Malky does not go down the vengeful path laid out in front of him. Despite his final decision of forgiveness, the priest does in fact get his comeuppance, and it is expectedly gruesome and ridden with religious symbolism – of course.
Retaliation is available on digital from March 26th.