The Retaliators (2021)

Bridget Smith, Samuel Gonzalez Jr.

Running Time: 97 Minutes

Starring: Michael Lombardi, Marc Menchaca, Joseph Gatt, Katie Kelly, Abbey Hafer, Jacoby Shaddix, Brian O'Halloran, Shannan Wilson, Zoltan Bathory

It's a recognisable scene to open with, as a flat-tyre leaves two women in the middle of nowhere before a grisly nightmare unfolds. It's here the filmmakers make their intentions known, as this attention grabbing set-piece showcases how the most prominent women are just victims to motivate the men on their blood-soaked journey.

Skipping to an earlier point, a pastor named John (Michael Lombardi) has an encounter at a Christmas tree lot with an obnoxious guy (Brian O'Halloran). John doesn't resort to violence in front of his kids, instead using the moment as a teaching opportunity for his church sermon about forgiveness. That mindset is severely tested when his daughter is murdered, leading John to discover a dark and twisted underworld born out of vengeance.

Set across the backdrop of a brewing gang war, The Geare Brothers include excessive amounts of set-up into their screenplay, regardless of any probable pay-off. It's a needlessly complicated  and dragged-out journey to the slaughter, and one wishes these efforts instead went into fine-tuning the dreadful dialogue. The filmmakers seem most interested in this gruesome avenue, depicting large amounts of gore caused by various items including Chekov's woodchipper.

Much of the marketing went into the rock credentials, as cameos and soundtrack contributions come from musicians including members of Five Finger Death Punch and Papa Roach. While the appearances are fun for fans, it's questionable whether other viewers will feel similarly, while the music is an intrusive choice. Take a key montage regarding the pastor slipping into despair, as it resembles an over-the-top music video, yet that's preferable to a scene bordering on parody of a congregation rocking out.

What's most baffling is the apparent moral of the story, as John's hellish journey sees him murder a large amount of people and cause innocent deaths, only to take away that it's okay to be violent in front of his children. When the earlier moments seemingly subverted the idea of revenge, it's disappointing for the film to take steps backwards towards regressive ideas.