Retaliation is the sophomore film directed by the Shammasian brothers Ludwig and Paul, starring Orlando Bloom. It originally premiered at the 2017 Edinburgh Film Festival and finally made its way to our screens in 2020, courtesy of Saban Films.
Retaliation focuses on a man named Malky, who is played by Orlando Bloom. So we find him working in construction. He’s part of a demolition team, and his current project is to demolish a church. And it’s immediately right away that he sort of enjoys doing this and has sort of a negative relationship with the church.
So, let’s do a Retaliation Ending Explanation and break down all the important things that you need to know about the movie.
Malky works in construction and now has got the job to demolish a church. Initially, we see Malky interacting with coworkers. He has sex with the lady, like the local bartender, Emma, played by Janet Montgomery.
While he’s in the restroom at the bar one day, he sees a priest walk in and is immediately triggered. So you can put two and two together and figure that he was the victim of sexual abuse by a priest in the church.
Specifically, the man who walked into the bathroom, who had been missing from the town, may have been relocated to a different church. But now he’s back again after 30 years, and Malky’s behavior switches.
So now Malky is hostile, grumpy, and acting out. We see him in a scene where he, I guess, sexually assaults himself, and it’s not funny.
Additionally, he has an interesting relationship with his mother. He’s never told his mother about the abuse. She is clearly disappointed in how he’s turned out. Because Malki is probably, like, 42, she’s disappointed in him, and he really never made anything of himself.
Because he hasn’t told her that he was abused, she doesn’t understand his negative relationship with the church. Malki also went to prison for some time for brutally assaulting a person.
Malky’s mother dies at the end of Retaliation. Malky comes home one day to her home to find her dead. And that’s when he feels compelled to tell her the truth about his abuse. So it sort of sets him free, which allows him to then go to the priest at the church and tell him what he did.
But prior to that, Malki had gone and visited the church with the intention of attacking the priest. And when he is about to attack the priests, the priest’s young niece interrupts them. So, thankfully, that was interrupted.
But after his mom dies and he confesses to her, he goes to the church and confesses to the priest in a pretty moving scene. The priest ends up coming out of the confessional and essentially acknowledging what Malky has told him. He doesn’t say he’s sorry, he doesn’t say anything, he just shakes his hand, and that’s the end of it.
So Malki goes on about his business, and the priest, after that evening or the next day, ends up letting himself on Fire.
Retaliation Ending Explained
The very ending, with the priest burning up, came out of nowhere. I felt that, by default, it has to happen because the biblical passage Romans 12:20, to summarize, is when you forgive someone who has wronged you, Hellfire will break above their head, and they will be forced to acknowledge their wrongs against you.
Orlando Bloom is left to believe he is going to be healing himself, potentially. But the priest, at this point, can’t just end this kind of film with the priest just shaking his hand and saying, “OK, goodbye.” It’s almost like this film had to end this way because “Can you imagine if there was no punishment for the priest?” It’s almost like we had to show that he has this extreme punishment.
Power Of Forgiveness And Romans 12:20
This movie is just a character study. The deeper meaning that the writer, Jeff Thompson, I believe, is trying to get at is about the Power of forgiveness.
Retaliation movie was based on the short story “Romans 12:20”, which is, of course, the scripture that we are directly referenced which sets out the self-immolation at the end. Originally, the film was called Romans before it received another transformative title change.
There’s a scene where he gets upset and stabs his hand. This I took to mean as kind of like a reference to the stigmata, like inflicting Christ’s wounds.
Malky is a manual laborer, and this doesn’t make any sense as to why you would hurt your hands. But then when he goes to the hospital and the doctor says that he needs surgery, he was like, No. He ultimately does because she tells him that he won’t be able to use his hands.
Malky’s F’ed Up Sexuality And Trauma
Retaliation has plot points revolving around someone who’s been sexually abused. The first is that we see Malki, Orlando Bloom’s character, take a metal rod and like shove it up his ass while he’s staring at himself in the mirror. And he says that he’s doing it as punishment.
But it’s not quite clear if he is enjoying this or if he thinks he deserves this. I don’t know, and it was just shocking. And his character also likes watching porn. So, the story really does try to set it up that he may be sexually deviant. Maybe not a Deviant, but I think that because of his abuse and his trauma, he is just sexually confused. It has shaped what and how he was titillated.
Because he has this loving girlfriend whom he can’t really have intimate sex with, he’s only like sodomizing her in the store room, at the bar. He doesn’t want to look at her, he’s not very tender with her, and he doesn’t want to commit to their relationship.
The Sense Of Familiarity With Paul
The street preacher, Paul, in the movie wasn’t that fleshed out. I thought that was a little overwrought and overdone. But it was a way to kind of develop Malki’s pain, and someone else has shared a similar experience Paul shares with Malki.
Paul was also sexually abused by his dad, so they kind of connected. But then the street preacher ends up being kind of crazy because he’s super religious. He has found religion as a way to heal, and he’s trying to impress that on Malki.
I like the idea because Melky is able to trigger to the point where they resort to fisticuffs over it. Clearly, he is not really over his own trauma and how religion really is just a mask for that, and not really dealing with the trauma.
The Steak Story
An important story point is one of his coworkers, Jo (played by Alex Ferns, who was in Chornobyl), while they’re at the bar, he relays a story to some young kid about a steak, and I don’t know if he was talking about STEAK or STAKE because I found his accent difficult to understand.
So I don’t know what the story was, but he tells the story like, “Have I told you the stakes story?” Then, about 30 minutes later, he tells the bartender, “Did I ever tell you about the stake story?” He tells the story again. What I did understand from the end is that there was a fight where Jo brutally assaulted a man.
But Malky decides to take the heat for it because Jo says “I can’t go to jail.” So Malki, being a good friend, was like, “Well, don’t worry, I’ll do it.”
So Malki did time for his friend’s crime, which kind of ruined his life, which is also why his mother thinks so poorly of him. So it’s a pretty big thing. And when you consider that plus the abuse, this poor character has just had the short end of the stick.
I think Orlando Bloom is pretty good as an actor. I really don’t have any thoughts about when I think of Orlando Bloom. I think he looks good, and his acting is fine. There are two scenes in particular that I thought he was good in. One scene is where he’s kind of railing at his dead mother. And then, of course, in the confessional.
I really like the actress who plays his mom, Anne Reid. You might know her from Hot Fuzz as one of the many older British ladies in that film. But she’s really good in a Roger Michelle film from 2003 called The Mother, where she’s having a sexual relationship with Daniel Craig, who’s also sleeping with her daughter. That’s a very bizarre, uncomfortable film I feel is not referenced a lot now.
But I thought she was kind of perfect for the part in this movie. I don’t think it was overdone, and she was just this nitpicky, disappointed old mother.