Retaliation: Film Review


The release of Retaliation – also known as Romans – has been a long time coming. Orlando Bloom filmed this hard-hitting drama in late 2015 and it had its premiere at the Edinburgh International Film Festival in 2017, and it has somehow taken four years to get a UK release.

Bloom stars as Malky, who was sexually abused by his priest when he was only 12 years old and is haunted by his past, with him being a deeply troubled and tormented man who struggles to control his rage and anger or have a committed, monogamous relationship with Emma (Janet Montgomery) and is physically violent towards himself and others. The horrors of his past come to the forefront more than ever as Malky and his demolition team are tasked with knocking down the church he attended as a child.

You need to make sure you’re in the right mindset to watch Retaliation because it really is a depressing, gruelling, and harrowing watch. There is certain imagery – particularly of Malky punishing himself physically – that made me wince in horror and revulsion. The deeply unpleasant images are seared into my brain and I’d rather not see them again.

This is easily Bloom’s career-best performance and it is so different from what we usually see from him, which I guess was part of the allure of the role, to prove he can do this kind of sombre, bleak drama. He throws his all into the challenging part and does well at physically embodying a cold, hard man with pent-up rage and long-nurtured resentment and a massive chip on his shoulder, but I thought his range was limited on the emotional side. He lacked the amount of nuance the role required.

The final scenes of Retaliation (I prefer the title Romans btw) should have delivered a devastating gut-punch and could have done so in much more capable hands. They are still shocking and gripping but because Bloom doesn’t have the range to do the role justice and it was so hard to connect with such a horrible person, it didn’t have the emotional impact it could have done.

Retaliation is a difficult, distressing film to watch. Consider yourself warned!

Available on digital platforms from Friday 26th March

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

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