The Retaliators is when Evil Dead with a Hostel bloodline combines with a zombie flick to have a baby. It starts as a revenge flick and becomes increasingly outrageous after in the best way. Written by Darren and Jeff Allen Geare and directed by Samuel Gonzalez Jr., Michael Lombardi, and Bridget Smith, the movie veers in surprising, unforeseen directions. Like a soundtrack that ramps up with each track, The Retaliators packs a wallop delivering laughs, shock, and action.
The opening is wild. A pair of girls end up stuck with a flat tire in the middle of the forest in New Jersey. Bloodshed ensues when one steps out to check as zombie-like people swarm their van. The Retaliators lets you know a violent, fun time is in store if you stick with the film. And yes, you should stick with it. After the blood-spattered cliffhanger opening, the film returns to what transpired before the bloody van.
The Retaliators Pacifist Pastor Snaps
A pastor, Johnny Bishop (Michael Lombardi), waits outside as his teen daughter, Sarah (Katie Kelly), attends grief counseling. They both, along with Bishop’s younger daughter, struggle with losing their matriarch. The Retaliators is more of a character evolution told in the most entertaining and wild way. Johnny is not only religious but a pacifist—yes, the two do not always go together. So in confrontational situations, Johnny speaks up but does not engage in violence.
However, once more tragedy strikes his family, Johnny ends up in the dark underbelly of grief and an underworld of crime and violence. The Retaliators takes the phrase, “give me five minutes alone with them,” literally. Then it asks could you and would you? But this is more than a revenge film, as Jed (Marc Menchaca) made this his life work; there is more madness to unfold.
As violence erupts all around, it bleeds out to a raucous soundtrack that ups the entertainment. The Retaliators harkens back to older, ridiculously fun, testosterone-driven horror films and characters, like Ash in Evil Dead. It is easy to cheer for Johnny because his identity relates to his kids and his position as pastor. He does not spout hypocritical nonsense. He tries to live with grace, but these evil men will not let him be great. So it’s time for Johnny 2.0.
Wonderful McClane-esque Performance
Michael Lombardi does a terrific job as a caring father pushed too far. He epitomizes the 80s action heroes his character enjoys watching. I love the reference to Die Hard while this film unfolds around Christmas. The film would drag to eternity if Michael did not bring his A-game to the role. But Michael gives a believable performance that leaves you praying for justice. I am not religious, but if a church had a pastor like him, not only caring but inviting rock bands to play music, I would at least check it out.
The Retaliators is another holiday action horror film to rest beside Die Hard and Krampus in your collection. A wild story with great action and gore cinched together with a great “family man” performance; The Retaliators revitalizes a genre I have not seen done well in a long time. So if you love the other films I mentioned, give this one a view because it is worth your time. Love the callback at the end of the film.