“I rape myself,” Orlando Bloom in his career’s most challenging role, confesses into the camera. And he isn’t speaking metaphorically. This graphic stark brutal dark and vivid film on self-flagellation get so violent at times that I found myself looking away in revulsion.
And that’s the way it should be. Child abuse is not a sweet subject. The survivor grows up twisted, confused, horrendously self-punishing and unable to respect the important relationships in his or life. Orlando Bloom’s Malcolm suffers a deep sense of persecution manifested in gruesome acts of self-violence. In one sequence he sodomizes himself with a wooden phallus. In another, he repeatedly stabs his hand with scissors.
For Orlando Bloom, this is a performance that must have killed him many times over. He goes into the area of Malcolm's guilt and self-loathing from which there’s no escape. I wonder how scarred this role left Bloom. Would he ever be “normal” again? Significantly, Bloom plays a church demolisher: his assailant was a priest. By pulling down churches Malcolm is avenging the brutality that unsuspecting children often face in the hands of hypocritical godmen.
I will never forget Orlando Bloom’s face at the end of the film when he recalls being sodomized at age 12 by the priest. When the numbed boy reached home, his mother refuses to share his grief and shock. Pain is such an isolating experience. Even those closest to the suffering are shut out.
Retaliation shows its protagonist battling bravely but futilely with his inner demons. His relationship with his girlfriend and mother, played by Janet Montgomery and Anne Reid, both wonderfully comforting in their spaces vis-a-vis the tormented hero, is so complicated that the co-directors do not intervene. The ugliness is allowed to chase its own shadows.
Make no mistake. This film belongs to Orlando Bloom. He owns every moment of Malcolm’s miserable existence and ensures that his redemption is not found to be unacceptable to the audience. The film ends with the offending priest doing himself harm. The circle of retribution has reached its fated destination. It’s time to stop the pain.
Directed by Ludwig Shammasian and Paul Shammasian, Retaliation gets 3 stars.
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