Set in New Jersey, the film begins with the introduction of John Bishop (Michael Lombardi), a respectable pastor within his community. John is a single father of two daughters, Sarah (Katie Kelly) and Rebecca (Abbey Hafer). As pastor and father, John keeps his body in shape and always acts according to the Scripture. One example is when John has a conflict with a random stranger but avoids violence and instead wishes them a Merry Christmas. He even uses this moment of conflict in his church sermon, encouraging his congregation not to take matters into their own hands but let the Lord deal with them instead.
One day, John’s life changes dramatically when his oldest daughter Sarah visits a local gas station and makes a huge discovery that has tragic consequences. John is now at a loss and prays to God for peace and healing within himself. However, when John meets with police detective Jed (Marc Menchaca) and learns more information, anger and vengeance are birthed and begin to stir within him. Now, John begins his own investigation and makes a massive discovery relating to a secret gritty underworld, learning more about the man and group responsible. Will John fall into temptation and take matters into his own hands, spilling the blood of those who wronged his family?
When it comes to violence, if you are someone who enjoys horrific moments such as bones snapping, blood splattering, teeth crunching, and gripping death scenes, then you’ll certainly find plenty to enjoy here. The film rightfully earns its R18+ rating based on the violence alone, especially in the third act, which is downright wild and crazy and goes off with a bang. The level of violence is bound to either shock viewers or make them laugh as some moments are pushed to the extreme. For myself, I felt a combination of both!
The pacing, for the most part, is great. While slow and somewhat cheesy to begin with, it’s evident that the film is building towards a big finale. Not only do we follow John as the lead, but we get a deeper story of selected side characters and even the villains. For the most part, the villains here aren’t overly threatening, and performances all around are generally hit and miss. I found I couldn’t be too critical, though, because the film knows exactly what it is and what it’s attempting to achieve- brainless popcorn entertainment. The film succeeds through its storyline, action, violence, and unexpected themes. The musical score is also fun, combining heavy metal and rock music throughout the duration. For the most part, I found the score rather fitting, blending in perfectly with the level of wildness, especially in the third act.
Overall, fans of horror and violence can come and witness the wild story of a pastor journeying through hell with hopes of finding peace. Make no mistake; this is no Christian family film; The Retaliators is extremely violent, bloody gruesome and warrants its R18+ ratings easily. The film successfully delivers plenty of brainless popcorn entertainment, and moments of cheesiness are highly forgiving, especially when the film hits its crazy and wild third act. The soundtrack is a blast, offering a combination of heavy metal and rock music. If you’re seeking something with a strong touch of blood and added freshness, invest in a cinema ticket today.