“Retaliation” isn’t the violent revenge picture its title promises. When this movie, directed by the brothers Ludwig and Paul Shammasian, had its premiere three years ago, it was called “Romans.” Anyone who expects Orlando Bloom in Charles Bronson mode will instead get a serious-minded, if heavy-handed, British drama about a man coping with the trauma of having been sexually abused as a child by a priest.
Bloom plays Malky, a construction worker whose current job — typical of the film’s blunt symbolism — involves tearing down a church. At a pub, Malky spots the priest (James Smillie) who abused him. The sighting brings Malky’s 25 years of silent suffering to a boil. That torment has already affected his relationship with the bartender (Janet Montgomery), whom he’s been seeing on and off; his best friend (well-played by the raffish Alex Ferns); and his mother (Anne Reid), whose own guilt makes her reluctant to acknowledge the abuse.
Malky, initially drawn to revenge, confronts his tormentor with a sledgehammer. But the screenplay, by Geoff Thompson, offers Malky an opportunity to avoid violence in the form of another abuse survivor (Charlie Creed-Miles) who found religion in prison and wants to help Malky. “Retaliation” settles on what feels like an easy way out: Malky expels his demons with implausible abruptness, while a fiery finale strains credulity to the breaking point, even as it allows the movie a bracing cut to black.
Mostly, “Retaliation” accords Bloom a chance to deliver some impressive, anguished monologues, although the scenes focusing on those around him (particularly a late conversation between Montgomery and Ferns’s characters) hint at a more expansive, unrealized complexity.
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