(director/writer: Ludwig Shammasian, Paul Shammasian; screenwriter: Geoff Thompson; cinematographer: Felix Wiedemann; editor: Paul Shammasian; music: Stephen Hilton; cast: Orlando Bloom (Malky,), Charlie Creed-Miles (Paul), Janet Montgomery (Emma), Anne Reid (Malky’s mom), Josh Meyers (Colin), Alex Ferns (Jo), India Fowler (Sophie), Rory Nolan (Billy), Kyle Rees (Mick), Charlotte Powell (Lou), James Smillie (Priest/Jimmy); Runtime: 93; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Sheetal Vinod Talwar, Mark Lane, James Harris, Jasper Graham; Saban Films; 2020-UK)
“The film perseveres through Bloom’s brilliant muted performance.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
The British director siblings, Ludwig and Paul Shammasian (“The Pyramid Texts”), helm this taut religious drama that they co-wrote with Geoff Thompson. Orlando Bloom is its brooding star, who gives a powerful performance. He’s a 37-year-old still pained by an abusive sex encounter with a priest when he was 12 and is forced to still deal with it mentally so many years later. It’s adapted from Romans 12:20, a 2008 short film from the same directors and screenwriter.
Bloom plays Malky, a London demolition worker. On his latest job, he’s assigned to work at the site of the same church where he was sexually abused by the priest (James Smillie). At the local pub he spots him, now an elderly man, still serving a nearby church, and is taken aback. The quick-tempered Malky reacts in an act of self-mutilation, stabbing his hand (think stigmata!).
His strongest emotional connection is with a stranger, a charismatic ex-con street preacher (Charlie Creed-Miles), jailed for assaulting the priest who abused him. He’s a survivor who takes a strong interest in Malky.
Malky fails to connect emotionally with his elderly mother (Anne Reid), who never believed his story about the priest, nor with his loudmouth co-worker best friend Jo (Alex Ferns), nor with his more romantically demanding occasional barmaid girlfriend Emma (Janet Montgomery).
The film perseveres through Bloom’s brilliant muted performance as someone suffering greatly within.
The great camera work captures Bloom’s trauma in his facial expressions and in its photography of the old church undergoing repair, as it asks if rebuilding it is enough to ease the suffering it caused its many abuse victims or will it be the beginnings of another cycle of child sexual abuse.
Retaliation has Malky’s work sledgehammer used by him in anger for his past humiliations, a religious symbol for smashing the past.
As for entertainment value, this is not an easy story to take without being pulled into its dark emotional orbit (as much as it’s a fascinating and deeply feeling one, even if overwritten and filled with too many religious symbols).
REVIEWED ON 7/31/2020 GRADE: B +