Aug 15, 2020

A knockout performance and  tragic story make for seriously entertaining cinema.


Grade: B+

Director: Ludwig Shammasian (The Pyramid Texts), Paul Shammasian (The Pyramid Texts)

Screenplay: Geoff Thompson

Cast: Orlando Bloom (The Outpost), Janet Montgomery (Black Swan)

Runtime: 1h 31m

Rating: R

By: John DeSando

"Be not carried away to revenge and retaliation (Romans, 12,V 19) by evil which is committed against you, but overcome the evil by the good which you show to your enemy (V20), put to shame by your noble spirit, ceases to act malignantly against you . . . .” Paul

Retaliation, starring a surprisingly brilliant Orlando Bloom as Malky, is about a demolition worker trying to demolish the memory of abuse by a priest when Malky was 12. The plot is simple, a thriller at the least, encouraging the audience to guess whether he will exorcise his demon or take Christ’s advice (see above).

The film focuses almost exclusively on Malky, whose growing torture about the abuse bleeds out into everything he encounters, be it his Mum (Anne Reed), his best friend, Jo (Alex Ferns), or, most lamentably, girlfriend Emma (Janet Montgomery). His rage is palpable, and because he shares its reason with no one, it is quietly volcanic.

At times the metaphors (cross, stigmata, and glasses, just for starters) are heavy; yet Bloom so effectively carries their weight, they serve as effectively as could be expected without distracting. The text from Paul helps audiences to understand the victim’s dilemma as well as answer how Malky can appease the vengeance.

Bloom is a revelation—abandoning for the moment his pretty boy roles—by turning in a memorable performance recently as an army captain in The Outpost, and in this role underplaying and overplaying grief and anger without relying on the charms that made him a global star.

For those who were brought up Catholic, stories of priestly abuse haunt even more when they are true. My attempted abuse by a priest when I was an undergraduate stays with me as I reconcile the disparity between piety and pederasty, its prevalence and its persistence. Retaliation will prevail as one of the best takes on religious perfidy.

John DeSando, a Los Angeles Press Club first-place winner for National Entertainment Journalism, hosts WCBE’s It’s Movie Time and co-hosts Cinema Classics. Contact him at